What Shaped My Yoga

(Reprinted from Yoga Fiction: Yoga Truth, Book 1.)

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survive nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.”  Charles Darwin

My marriage ended in 1971. I was thirty years old, and an emotional wreck. The pain from behind my left eye, extended down through my shoulder, into my hip, and it ended in my little toe! The neurologist said this was impossible.

However, the pain was there and it made me nervous. I couldn’t sit quietly or even read a book. He prescribed muscle relaxants and then my family doctor recommended Valium.

Terrified, I sought my mother’s advice. When she suggested Yoga (it had calmed her nerves) I registered for the local class and learned various Asanas (Yoga positions). They elongated my muscles and soon I was feeling CALMER and more CONFIDENT than I had in ages.

Around the same time, I met spiritual teacher, Jack Schwartz.  He taught classes at the local university called “Voluntary Control of Internal States.” I signed up, hoping to control and heal my body without medications. Soon I was learning a method he called Creative Meditation.

Following Jack’s instructions, Creative Meditation put me in touch with sensations and feelings in my body. Also, imagery, associations, direct messages and insights, invoked through Creative Meditation, gave me a deeper UNDERSTANDING into my life, in spite of my ongoing anxiety, pain and confusion.

For instance, an exciting opportunity at a budding television station came my way. Instead of rushing to accept the invitation, as was my usual pattern; I sat down, closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Following the steps outlined in Creative Meditation I simply asked myself, “Should I take this job?”

To my amazement an inner message whispered, “This work is too demanding. Your children need you.” I was dismayed, but quickly realized—even though there would be less money, there would be more time—for my children and, although I hadn’t thought about it— for Yoga!

THAT MOMENT CHANGED ME FOREVER.

Contacting the wiser part of myself flooded me with a sense of personal power. In this case, once the decision was made, I felt more peaceful, my children were happier, and I never once regretted my decision.

After this, I began relying more and more on deeper and deeper intuitive states, gained through Creative Meditation, to forge the direction of my life. I stopped worrying about what other people thought about me and, instead, trusted in my own INSIGHTS to guide my work, play and love life and I even began teaching Yoga.
Although still grieving the loss of my marriage, I was stronger and my children were happier. Staying true to myself and my own way of being in the world, I felt more AUTHENTIC and my life became more meaningful.

Creative Meditation naturally transferred into my Asana practice. Sometimes, after closing my eyes, breathing deeply and stretching; deep feelings, intuitive flashes and psychological insights SPONTANEOUSLY bubbled up. They seemed to pop right out of my muscles!

Once while stretching through the tightness in my upper back, my breath became heavy,  hot tears burned down my cheeks. and I sobbed for my lost dreams, broken family and fractured self.

Just then, intuitive flashes informed me about what really happened between my husband and myself, compared to what I thought had happened. I was overcome with anger. Afterwards, I noticed the PAIN down the left side of my body DIMMED and my fear of being alone with my children DIMINISHED.

This connection, between my body and emotional states, stunned me, while the information I received emboldened me. Expressing these insights to my husband and others, I felt a GREATER SENSE OF SELF.

Experiencing the POWER of Yoga encouraged me to share what I was learning with my students. Using the altered states that Asana provided to contact deeper feelings, needs and views, my students prospered in my classes and in their personal lives. This spurred me on.

After practicing and teaching Yoga this way for several years, I engaged in a more physical form of Asana, Iyengar Yoga. Practiced with eyes wide open, it focused more on muscular strength, rather than on inner sensing.

My muscles got bulkier and more defined, however the intuitive states I had grown to rely on in my subtler Yoga practice grew distant and harder to reach. Then they left me all together. I had fallen out of heaven and didn’t know why. Later I realized, coarse muscular bodies inhibit energy flow and therefore inner sensing.

Asana, once so enlightening, was now an addictive, demanding practice. I was a slave to my body. This seemed contradictory to the freedom one usually associates with Yoga and I seriously considered quitting altogether.

To the rescue came Yoga teachers, Rama Vernon and Angela Farmer, who synchronized the practice of Asana with breath flow. Focusing on breath, rather than brawn, my body became more GRACEFUL and the WISDOM of my body, as expressed through images, insights, intuitive flashes, direct messages, hunches and inspirational awareness, returned. My inner world was once again filled with information, confidence, and most of all, a sense of safety.

This was the early 80’s and under Rama’s direction, my students and myself organized the very first American Yoga Conferences. Called Unity in Yoga, they later morphed into American Yoga Alliance, the American governing board of Yoga (which I no longer support.) In those early days teachers from all over the United States Canada and even Europe, arrived to present their views to eager students like myself.

I was attracted to the techniques, no matter the system, that could reveal what lay in my UNCONSCIOUS mind to my CONSCIOUS awareness. This laid the foundation for my  Yoga practice—my body is a vehicle propelling me towards my AUTHENTIC, true self. 


Around this time, I met Eleanor Leatham. Eleanor created healing sounds with her voice, called TONING. When Eleanor toned me deep emotions burst forth, through my sighs, groans and tears. Afterwards, flowing energy pulsated through me. It felt nourishing and whole. Eleanor said, “Unexpressed anger, sadness and grief get lodged in our bodies and discharging these unconscious emotions restores natural energetic flows.”
Free flowing energy is called Chi in Chinese medicine and Prana in Yoga. The Yogis believe that Prana embodies all animate and inanimate objects. Prana, flowing through our bodies, develops an experiential awareness of what Eleanor referred to as “inspiration” and other people call their soul connection.
After this, Prana was a vital part of my Yoga practice. I looked for and developed Yoga techniques that could release Prana in my body.

The final foundation or cornerstone of my search appeared through Sanskrit teacher, Dr. David Teplitz. He explained that SELF-REALIZATION and ENLIGHTENMENT (according to the Yoga Sutras) rely on the refinement of our intuition or Buddhi mind.

Intuitive knowledge and inspirational awareness is necessary for us to EXPERIENCE the various spiritual states. To know them, we needed to EXPERIENCE them FIRST HAND, for ourselves.

This information flowed right into my Yoga practice and teaching, reinforcing my commitment to living my everyday life through intuitive, inspirational awareness, in spite of  limitations and fears. From then on the study of the Yoga Sutras, which I shared with my students, was a necessity.

The teachings of Jack Schwartz (Creative Meditation), Eleanor Leatham (Toning) and Dr. Teplitz (Yoga Sutras) pulled together in my consciousness. By combining them I began to look for, notice and experience the PRINCIPLES of Yoga, that live within the various systems and names given to Yoga.
My Yoga practice was working. It helped me to know and trust in all parts of me—the good, the bad and the ugly! I felt more alive, whole and, most of all, AUTHENTIC.
The fruits of Yoga supported me through the clear and murky waters of my life.

Encouraged by Rama Vernon, I began a Yoga Teacher Training program just as Yoga was becoming popular. Over the years hundreds of students passed through my training programs, right into their own CREATIVITY. My Course Vision was to “bring forth the inner beauty and unique gifts of each student to share with others” and then to “train and inspire Yoga teachers.”

I also wished to “relax and purify bodies and minds through Yoga” as well as to “promote Yoga as a way to self-realization” and, finally, “to bring individuals from different Yoga paths together to share in fellowship and love.”

It wasn’t until 1996 that the last part of my Course Vision was achieved when my students and myself, founded Yoga Outreach, a non profit organization dedicated to teaching Yoga in places without access, such as prisons, addiction centres and halfway houses.
Since its initial annual Fundraiser teachers and students from various systems came together to share and teach for a greater cause. In 2004 I turned the reigns of Yoga Outreach over to my student, Beth Sampson who, along with her team, extended Yoga Outreach out, into the larger Yoga Community.

Before this time, in 1991, I met Bob Berger, my husband-to-be. Together we built a beautiful healing centre overlooking the water. Named Kairos, Greek for a “place or state of timelessness” it was dedicated to love, laughter and authenticity. We taught workshops there, alone and together for over 18 years, while I continued to train Yoga teachers.

Sharing my personal experiences and insights with my students through classes, workshops, retreats and teacher trainings, they too descended into the underworld of their bodies to unhook stuck emotions, strengthen Prana and ascend into a richer, fuller and more AUTHENTIC life.

We knew we were on the right track because revelations from deep within, rather than those from sheer fantasy and wishful thinking, GROUNDED us in our EVERYDAY LIVES.

Our bodies were generally healthier and, in spite of changing moods, conditions and difficulties, deeper INSIGHTS assisted us in dealing with the on-going challenges of life. This led to a sense of self-fulfillment.

Seeing my students evolve beyond their former selves inspired my Yoga practice. Diving within to retrieve the best way to execute a particular Asana or breathing technique; or to discover better ways to manage my household and kids thrilled me. I felt vibrant  and alive within an expanding sense of wonder and wholeness.

Even though the path to my true Self is UNIQUE to me, the YOGA PRINCIPLES I met along the way, are the SAME for all of us.

Yoga Fiction: Yoga Truth is about understanding and using Yoga PRINCIPLES to gain a sense of inner POWER and FREEDOM. This is the reason I call what I teach, simply, YOGA. It reflects all Yoga systems and once understood, all paths are available to us for what they have to offer. And, once the experience is gained, we are free to move on and deepen our Yoga practices with other systems or, eventually, from within ourselves.

By understanding what Yoga does and where we are on the continuum, we step out of the box, beyond the various forms of  Yoga and develop the wisdom and FREEDOM to negotiate our OWN journeys.

This is the true meaning of Yoga.  It guides us, through EXPERIENTIAL awareness into sustained happiness, in spite of changing times, unique limitations and ongoing obstacles. The Yoga path is different for each of us, and yet, the same because the PRINCIPLES of Yoga, no matter the system, birth us into the uniqueness of our TRUE selves.

 

Here is what I have learned so far.
Excerpt from Yoga Fiction: Yoga Truth

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