I haven’t got the perfect yoga body, and you won’t see me posing in pretzel-like asanas in exotic locations, semi-naked on Instagram with a million followers. So what do I get out of yoga and why do I not only practice it, but teach it too?
My yoga story begins shortly after the birth of my twins nearly 18 years ago. It was then I started to get intense pelvic pain. Swelling in my abdomen and problems with hormones meant I gained weight. For 13 years I put up with this, doctors couldn’t ‘see’ a problem so I was told I must be depressed, although by this time dealing with pain was a daily battle.
During this time I studied hard and got my MA in Contemporary Therapeutic Counselling at the University of Hertfordshire. Counselling is a great job! You get to help someone as they transform their life and ways of thinking and being; it’s tough but worthwhile. You also get to sit down whilst you work which helps a lot when you are in pain.
After 13 years I saw a poster whilst waiting in the local hospital with my son for a routine appointment, it described my symptoms and got me thinking. After a month or so I plucked up the courage to ask to ask my GP and she agreed it was likely that I had endometriosis and referred me to a surgeon. You see endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women worldwide but the only way to diagnose it is to have exploratory surgery. You can find out more about endometriosis at: https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/
When I finally had my surgery they found endometriomas and that some of my pelvic organs were stuck together with adhesions, making movement difficult. The surgeon treated the disease he could, unfortunately since then I have had 4 more operations and am awaiting the 6th.
Each time I have surgery, my physical fitness, flexibility and strength declines, I am unable to do much exercise for 6-8 weeks, and it takes months to recover my health and wellness.
I came across yoga when my professional life and illness collided. You see I had been looking into Eastern ideas and philosophies about mental health and wellness to broaden my academic study of the mind, inspired by my clients and their multi-cultural backgrounds. It was during this time I came across meditation as a form of pain relief and to help deal with unwanted, repetitive or circular thought patterns to help alleviate anxiety, depression and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I began to try out meditation for pain relief and soon learnt to teach meditation techniques to my clients so they could benefit too.
Meditation helped me immensely but I needed something more to help build up my physical wellbeing and a friend suggested I try yoga. I found a wonderful yoga teacher Gill Ansty who teaches Viniyoga, it’s a form of yoga that can be adapted from the very gentle to the intense depending on your ability. I went along to her classes and started off slowly. She taught me about the importance of the breath and how breathing alone is yoga.
You see the big secret to yoga is: It’s not really about the body at all!
The yoga sutras on which modern yoga practice is based, whether you practise Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar or any other type of yoga, is primarily about how to control and work with your mind ‘Yogah-CittaVrttiNirodhah’ YS 1.2. Asana (postures), pranayama (breathwork) and meditation are used as tools to calm the fluctuations of the mind.
The overlap between psychotherapy and yoga is astounding, and I find that each now informs and adds to my practice of the other. I teach yoga as another way for my clients to access the skills to mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
As for me? My journey is not yet through, I am preparing for my next surgery and I hope in the new year to start offering groups and retreats for women who have also experienced trauma and pain whether physically, mentally or emotionally because those first steps towards wellbeing can be hard. I have learnt the importance of holistic healing, bringing the mind, body and soul together to enhance your wellbeing.
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