Hari OM all
"Therapeutic yoga" may well be a bit of a misnomer - surely all yoga has healing properties, in the sense of bringing together body, mind and spirit. There is certainly an amazing amount of scientific evidence building up, confirming what the ancient Rishis have always taught.
Drawing towards the end of my teaching year, I've been reflecting on the role yoga has played and continues to play in my own life. If events get in the way of my morning practice, so that I have to shorten it or (aargh) miss it out, the day doesn't feel right. it's not only or even primarily because I need a daily practice to be able to teach. Yoga - including the daily mantras, asanas, pranayama and meditation - is what I call my life-support system for body, mind and spirit. Recently I read in a blog post from the ever-interesting Yoga for Healthy Aging team that "it’s sounding more and more like BKS Iyengar had it right when he said:
"Where does the body end and the mind begin? Where does the mind end and the spirit begin? They cannot be divided as they are inter-related and but different aspects of the same all-pervading divine consciousness."
Now that I'm in my seventies I depend even more on asana practice to maintain flexibility, keep enough bodily strength and work on maintaining the best balance I can after the depredations of foot surgery. As yoga is an amazing holistic system it's the whole tool-kit that counts, but if I had a favourite part it would be Pranayama. Breathing practices bring energy, emotional settling and resilience, leading to meditation practice for that inner sense of peace and wholeness. During the events of the day I can use my mantra silently and no-one can tell. And even a short evening practice - such as candle-gazing while reflecting on the day, and then chanting the beautiful Shanti Path - helps to bring better sleep.
So - back to what I mean by using the expression "therapeutic" yoga. I feel privileged to teach all my classes but especially the ones modified for people with a variety of health conditions. It's been estimated that around 40% of the UK population has at least one longer term health condition, and many may have a complex mixture. I try to work with class members to find versions of each asana, or sequence of asanas, that remain true to the essence of the pose, using variations in the poses, chairs, blocks and sometimes belts, to provide support and make sure everyone in the class has something they can be working on. Breathing practices and pranayama are very valuable, as are Yoga Nidra and short meditations.
There's no striving to achieve after a particular effect; a famous yogi called Sri Krishnamacharya (teacher of BKS Iyengar) said "Don't adapt yourself to yoga; adapt yoga to yourself". Some years ago I met an experienced yoga practitioner who didn't seem to be moving in any way, when I was teaching a large group in Belfast. She explained that she'd been in hospital and was convalescing, so being very careful. She told me she was doing the advanced practice- visualizing it! I've used that expression many times since then.
Of course it's not just the class content - the group support is a key factor. There's quite a lot of laughter, especially with practices such as chair versions of Roaring Lion and Archer pose, but also some really thoughtful discussions on aspects of yoga philosophy and how we can apply them to our lives. I hope that all these elements blend so that the unique therapeutic system that is yoga can work its magic on the whole person - body, mind and spirit.
Update on classes and courses
The weekly group classes in Edinburgh and West Lothian will finish for the summer on July 31st and start again in the first week in September. You'll find details of the fabulous new West Lothian venue for our Wednesday evening class, the Choose YOU yoga studio in North Livingston, along with information about all the classes, on my website. I'm hoping to run a "Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs" course at Choose You but that will depend on numbers. The studio is proving so popular that it's a challenge to find a slot in which to teach!
I'm looking forward to teaching on the next "Introduction to Ayurveda, the Yogic System of Medicine" which starts in Edinburgh on September 9th. See the flyer below. There are still spaces on the course - contact the principal tutor Elizabeth Roberts on firstname.lastname@example.org
A sorrowful note about one of our Satyananda Swamis - Swami Satyaprakash Saraswati, Director of the Birmingham Satyananda Yoga Centre, which she founded. Some of you may have attended seminars she gave in Scotland - on one memorable occasion over 80 keen yogis attended her seminar in Glasgow! After a relatively short period of illness, Swami Satyaprakash died peacefully on June 29th. This wonderful soul will be much missed by her family, students and friends all over the world, both for her huge contribution to Satyananda Yoga in the UK and worldwide over the past 30 years and her feisty outgoing personality.
I hope you all have a pleasant summer break and I look forward to seeing everyone again in September.
With love and lots of OMMMs