Eileen Fleming - Author, Reporter, Baby Boomer Activist - Health, Wellness, Spirituality
A main reason I attend yoga classes is because people with open hearts, minds and positive energy always surround me there.
Last September, at the start of my first Yoga class, the teacher began by asking us for “One word to explain why we were there, what we were looking for?”
“CHANGE” is the word I heard within and claimed out loud.
The week before that class I cancelled surgery for total bilateral knee replacements despite receiving “expert advice” that I was the “perfect candidate” for other than “end stage osteoarthritis” I am in excellent health. I cancelled that surgery in the midst of signing all the medical release forms because I finally listened to my gut, which had been telling me surgery, was not the way I should go.
Yoga instructors are always reminding you “to breathe” and “pay attention and honor your body.” I have become attuned to every inch of stress, tension, and discomfort in my now 60-year-old body and I practice yoga to feel better which is what I receive-but not all I get!
Because of “not honoring my body” with decades of overuse syndrome: repeated injuries without sufficient REST necessary for repair and healing and an unfortunate tendency to “grow arthritis” I am now stuck with deranged knees: no cartilage and detached kneecaps.
Due to “not honoring my body” with hours of heavy gardening DESPITE the fact that I was hurting, I determinedly stuck with my project until the weeds finally won out! Those self-inflicted injuries resulted in my dislodging arthritic spurs and exacerbating a bulging cervical disc causing burning pain in my neck and down my arms and shooting pain in my fingers making it impossible for me to do my work/vocation, which is to WRITE.
I knew my life had- and was going to have to change again.
After eliminating ALL the activities that had exacerbated my symptoms and RESTING until the acute pain had subsided, I began attending yoga classes 3-4 times a week after consulting my Internist, Dr. Ariel.
By way of trial and error, I discerned there are many yoga positions I will never do and should not even attempt; but more than plenty I can do as long as everything flows with my breath.
In February, Brandi and Max were introduced at a morning’s Yin class, and the couple introduced the class to “Yoga Nidra” which can lead to a deep state of conscious sleep by way of guided meditation.
It also happened to be the first class I experienced where I was physically able to do ALL the positions without feeling the usual stress/pain in my deranged knees and arthritic shoulders.
As the CD “Bija” by Todd Norian played through the sound system I felt a humming vibration in synch throughout my body.
As Max led us to imagine that our feet, ankles and calves were growing roots and we were a tree: I imagined I was a huge weeping willow on a calm day. I FELT my feet, ankles, and calves “rooting” as gentle knitting into my mat and into the ground.
It may have been seconds or minutes later but I felt a heaviness in my feet as if they were solidly attached to my mat while the rest of me was floating.
If Max hadn’t called us back to “reality” I could have easily remained in that ‘sleep state’ but returned home remembering the feeling of being a weeping willow tree and went straight to work: writing.
Nine years ago, I began an online newspaper and have shed buckets of tears through my writings in four books and hundreds of articles.
I have no doubt that I was able to distill nine years of writing down to a 1,300 word article which included a letter to President Obama on US collusion in Israel’s nuclear deceptions and Mordechai Vanunu’s ten year struggle for his right to leave Israel.
I have NO doubt I accomplished that task [which could have easily taken me all day] within three hours because of the clarity of mind I received from that morning’s yoga practice which hooked me on Yoga Nidra.
Every Saturday morning, gently and with kindness, Brandi leads a class through gentle and kind asanas/yoga postures which prime us for Max’s nidra finale-which is all about letting go of everything- as if we were dead.
Being verbally led to relax will make one more aware of tension-be it in the body or mind and perhaps that is why this pose is considered “advanced” by many yogis.
One morning as Max guideed the class to breathe into every part of our body and all the space from our toes to head; the sound system played the music of rolling waves in the ocean. When Max told us to “REEEEEEEELLAAAAAAAXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXxxx” our jaw, I realized I had been smiling but had not been conscious of anything more than what Max was saying.
But when the ocean waves playing from the sound system attracted me more than Max’s voice, I FELT as if my body was gently rolling on a wave and for a fleeting moment- I felt as if I were actually floating a few inches off the floor.
I left that class determined to share the experience with my husband, an Internist with a scientific mind and inflexible body.
Through the years he has also agreed I try multiple anti-inflammatories many of which have been removed from the market due to dire side effects.
John won’t go to the yoga studio, so last Saturday, Brandi and Max came to our home for a couples-yoga session.
Brandi and Max demonstrating a pose my husband and I will never do!
My husband and I did learn two poses we can do together, but I am not holding my breath we will!
After Brandi and Max left, my husband said, “They are a pleasant and sincere couple; but I can’t bend and I was doing what you call yoga nidra when I was in medical school to treat my insomnia! I won’t ever ask you to go fishing again, if you don’t ask me to do yoga again.”
"Fair deal" I replied, but I also am a nurse by education and I know Medicine listens best when it is “evidence based”.
IF my prognosis proves true, over the next nine months, my experiences could become evidence that yoga can be a viable and healthier alternative to pharmaceuticals and surgery.
IF not, I will also write about that...