RYS 200, 500 - Yoga Alliance, USA
In the spring of 2008 I went to my first yoga class. My practice between 2008 and 2010 was undisciplined to say the least... an hour once a week, gulping down a caffe latte before class and my favorite asana was no doubt Shavasana. I was as far from a yogini as anyone... But in October 2010 I came to Rishikesh the first time and when I returned home I started going (again once a week!) to Satyananda Yoga School in Stockholm, with increased motivation and discipline. However, between my return from India in the end of October and my signing up for a life changing TTC in Rishikehsh, an unexpected meeting took place.
There was a guy in my yoga class. We’ve all known the type; showing up 15 minutes before class to stretch vigorously, making you feel like less of a yogi for not doing so, passing comments to the teacher in a way that lets everyone know that they go way back and chanting louder than anyone else.... Everything about this guy put me in a bad mood; his chubby little figure, the out of fashion glasses, the narrow-set eyes, his haircut, his pants... I found myself feeling increased irritation during my asana practice by the mere sight of him and the fact that he kept making contact just fueled my irritation.
One dark and damp evening in November, I almost ran out into the rain after the class, to avoid him chatting to me. As it would turn out, I could run but not hide. Ignorant of my fairly obvious resentment, he came after me: ”You know... with your back... you shouldn’t do yoga at all.” he proclaimed in a matter-of-fact-way that made me see red. ”Sorry?”, I stopped and spun around, as I couldn’t believe my ears. ”Yeah... you should only be doing some very, very light stretching – you may harm your back otherwise!.” ”Are you some kind of chiropracticioner or naprapath?” I replied with barely hidden sarcasm. ”Something in between...” he answered witha supposed-to-be-charming smile and I felt my irritation peak. Something in between?? ”Let’s just say I have a lot of experience of people with Scoliosis...” he continued in his self-confident manner. That was the moment; right there, out on the street in the pouring November rain. From that day on I never went back to the yoga class again, but instead I practised 90 minutes daily, alone by myself at home and that very evening I searched Google for a TTC in Rishikesh, fuming with anger over his insolence. My back is not in charge of my life – I am. My back will do what I tell it to do - that was my attitude an still is!
When I was thirteen, the doctors discovered that I was developing Scoliosis. For those who don’t know, that means that the spine is S-shaped rather than straight. In my mind, I call it having a ”snake-back”. Conventional medicine has made the wrong assumption that the back just grows like that and offers nothing but surgery, corsets and sometimes rehab- excercises to stop it from getting worse, which is very disempowering. But this is an assumption that is completely up the walls! The spine is not growing into S-shape – it is being pulled into S-shape by the muscles of the back. Why? Because of emotional stress and tension, especially in sensitive and over-flexible people. I figured that if my back is flexible enough to have been pulled into the shape of a snake, then it is also possible to pull it back by releasing the tension; maybe not completely but good enough to accomplish what I needed!
”With your back...”, I heard his words echoe in my mind during every backward-bend and each time my love and loyalty for my snake-back increased. As I started doing more and more asanas I asked my back: ”Are you okay with this? Can we do this?” and she answered: ”Yes! Go for it!!”. We agreed that we would not let some self-pompous, chubby little man tell us what we could and couldn’t do. Not then, not now, not ever!
This morning, as my toes touched the bun of hair on my head during the scorpion, my mind recalled the guy in my yoga class and the fall 2010. Me and my back who ”should only do some very light stretching”... Whatever! Does this mean you should be careless or practice without caution? Of course not. One should always practice asanas according to ones own ability, but you are the only one who knows the true limits of your ability! Never allow anyone to make you believe that you are more fragile than you are. Never allow anyone to set up the boundaries for the capacity of your body.
Nothing in your body is written in stone. What is bent can be straightened and what is sick can be healed. You are the equestrian of your physical body, not the other way around... I feel a sudden pang of gratitude towards the annoying little man and along with it comes the suspicion that he was in fact an angel sent. Triggering me to push my limits and sign up for a TTC that would change my life in more than one way, blessing me with the best year of my life. If I ever see him again I will thank him... but first I will teach him how to do the Scorpion! ;)
Naturopath & Yoga Teacher