Beyond the Asana: How Yoga Brought New Life
This post was originally written for and posted on the Shri Yoga website in June 2016 (I've updated the accompanying photo to mark the growth that continues). Shri is the amazing community-vibing, expert trained and beginners welcome studio where I completed my Yoga Teacher Training with the incredible Julie Smerdon. To see more about this amazing studio in the Brisbane CBD, check out their site at www.shriyoga.com.au. For those newer to yoga, "asana" simply means yoga posture or pose - happy reading :)
I write this from the comfort of having my 5 month old son resting on my lap. That’s important to note because, in part, I credit his being here to yoga. My journey with yoga began about 14 years ago. I loved it from the beginning for improving my flexibility and preventing running injuries. I saw it differently than I do now. I’d often skip savasana to get back to work on time and as for breath, well, let’s just say I mindlessly went along for the ride. Little did I know that one day, breath would be my focus through intense pain and a single moment in Julie’s Intensives class would heal my soul.
I often remember my first yoga teacher saying, “What happens off the mat, also happens on the mat, and vice versa”. I realised this more once I began coordinating movement and breath. I noticed how yoga opened my mind, and my emotions. Asanas that I could easily get into the shape of, suddenly had a sense of meaning beyond the shape, and they brought up new things I needed to work on off the mat.
Flash forward about 10 years, content with the decreased stress and openness yoga brought to my life, then it really hit me. Actually, it was a high-speed bus crash in Cambodia. With a fractured spine, head trauma, and serious malpractice issues, I lay in a Cambodian hospital with no pain relief and no idea what was going on. Every second hurt and I was immobilized. All I could do was breathe. Thank goodness for the past 10 years of practice on that one! Once I returned to Australia, I was told it was uncertain if I would ever walk properly again. After a lot of rehab, 13 months later, I walked quite normally back to class. The same asanas were there, they were different, and the focus of each practice for me became more about self-acceptance and patience than it was about a goal to push myself. It was a new level of healing.
I decided to take on Julie’s Yoga Intensives and see how I went. After the 1st weekend my husband said he saw a lightness to me that he hadn’t seen since before the crash. I’d begun reclaiming myself. So the 2nd weekend had a lot to live up to – and it did! I’ll never forget being in the back row as Julie was instructing us on wheel. I’d been to a workshop on backbends a couple months earlier, but I had yet to find the strength to get to wheel. Julie came over and had me hold her feet. Talking through lifting our hearts, mine lifted, I went into the pose and what came out was tears. Elephant tears. They didn’t stop right away. In fact Julie had us do the pose again…and again, and the tears, well, they stopped a few hours later. What was left in their place was an openness, a forgiveness, and a sense of healing I hadn’t known I needed. A readiness to move on. After a couple months of trying, 2 weeks later I was pregnant. I can’t say that wouldn’t have happened anyway, but I went through the intensives and felt Baby Ninja’s first movement in that same studio on an intensive weekend. Yoga then became a bonding time where I could focus on my body as it was, in all acceptance, and breathing for two heartbeats. People say yoga heals, in my case, I believe it helped bring new life.