The following is a guest post from Zenergy yoga instructor Lauri Bunting, who is offering a Yoga for Healing clinic this Sunday, November 19th, from 11 AM to 1 PM. Register online, “Yoga For Healing with Lauri Bunting“. The workshop serves as a sanctuary for healing the body, heart and mind. Students will be led through therapeutic and restorative poses, breathing, mudra and a guided meditation to tap into the body’s inherent ability to heal.
HEALING WITH YOGA
What is a yogi to do when her body lets her down? I spent most of my life taking for granted my ability to move, from the uninhibited play of youth to participation in competitive sports in my teens. By adulthood, outdoor sports were my passion and helped me to test my body’s limits.
Yoga entered the picture during my mid-twenties. It served as a great complement to my sports, then rose in ranks with motherhood. Yoga became my spirituality, my fitness, and my peace of mind. On my mat I explored the deeper realms of existence. Through Yoga, I learned to witness the churning of my mind—the repetitive thoughts, beliefs and patterns that quietly scribed the stories of my life. I became intrigued with the space between my thoughts. It was there that I discovered a stillness, silence and peace. While my body learned to do things that others deemed impressive, it was this internal intrigue that drew me to the mat every morning.
During my forties, I sometimes wondered if my body would ever get stiff and weak. The strength and grace I had cultivated made me feel that I could defy age and my own physical demise. Yet 50 came with a strange gift: pain. The random stab in my hip while running or faintly perceptive ache after carving turns and blasting bumps eventually became a persistent throb that robbed me of sleep. A visit to the doctor delivered the blow: I had advanced arthritis in my hips and would need replacements in three to five years.
I was tossed into a new relationship with yoga. Feeling betrayed by the very practice that was supposed to protect me, I questioned its validity. I also felt like a hypocrite. How could I ask my students to do something that had failed me? I felt I had no choice but to abandon the practice. Weeks passed and I felt sad. The pain and stiffness in my joints worsened but, most of all, I missed that quiet place inside that I had come to call home. I unrolled my yoga mat, moved slowly and mindfully through some gentle poses, shed a few tears, and slipped into that ever-expanding space between my thoughts and breaths. It was from that place that I decided that yoga would either heal my aching hips or support me through the process of getting them replaced.
Humbled and yearning, I enrolled in a yoga therapy training program. I learned poses and movements to avoid, manage and eradicate pain associated with specific conditions. I practiced breathing techniques and mudras to manipulate subtle energy (prana) and shift states of mind. I explored my own ailments as well as those of my fellow students through the five sheath model of the koshas—the physical, energetic, emotional, intellectual and spiritual layers that comprise human existence. I discovered that the process of healing was less about achieving a perfect physical, emotional or mental state and more about reclaiming our inherent wholeness.
Last spring, just two days after I scheduled my first hip replacement, my ailing hips caused me to trip while hiking. In a perfect storm of position and force, I popped all three hamstring tendons off of my ischial tuberosity (sitting bone). After the resultant surgery, I put my yoga healing tools to use with Yoga Nidra, a guided or self-guided meditative journey. This became my daily practice and I did it while lying in my bed, as I could not sit, stand or walk. One of the key elements of Yoga Nidra is setting a sankalpa, a concise positive intention for a desired quality or state. Sankalpas are stated in present tense and simultaneously felt as if it has already been achieved, as the brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined.
Each time we repeat and feel a sankalpa, positive neuronal pathways are etched, affecting the body, heart and mind. Mudra (hand positions) and pranayama (breathwork) fortify these new pathways. Restorative poses, long- held supported postures, further the process of healing by allowing the body to release patterns of long held emotional and physical tension. It was through the very thing that I feared most, the deterioration of my own physical body, that I was able to experience the true jewels of yoga. Yoga is the constant process of rediscovering our inherent wholeness while traveling this humbling healing journey called life. I am scheduled for bilateral hip replacements this spring and continuing to support my whole existence through the practice of yoga.