I am not the feature model on the cover of The Yoga Journal. I did not start out super flexible and bendy, nor have I become so. My toes feel a mile away if I skip out on practice for a week. And most of the time I feel like I take more steps backwards than forwards.
So what am I?
I am a classical pianist who lived in the heart of NYC for 18 years. A world that was equal parts indescribably beautiful and devastating. Intensity of every moment at 100% all of the time. Much like my family.
When there is no peace, sickness of the mind seeps into the body. A plethora of unexplainable alarming illnesses that have no obvious connection to each other began to unfold. And for 17 years, I did what everybody else does. I went to get the symptoms treated.
The 2 lines I heard from doctors more than any other diagnosis or treatment options were “there is nothing you can do”, and, “we don’t know how/why you have this”. In 2004 I was diagnosed with a rare skin virus and I was told that there was nothing that could be done and that it would only get worse and I would have it for the rest of my life. In 2005, my retinas detached in both eyes. In 2006 I was diagnosed with “ice-pick migraines” even though I was the wrong sex and age group for someone who typically develops this type of migraine. 2009 proctalgia fugax (yeah go ahead and look that one up). 2010 A collection of bizarre symptoms led me to one of the most sought after neurologists in NYC, who upon hearing my symptoms gave me the pre-diagnosis of complex partial seizures. I had developed a speech impediment. I experienced confusion and difficulty getting onto and off of moving escalators. Inability to walk 10 blocks without pain in the lungs and in the body. Sleep disorders. Narcolepsy. Too many things to list. 2012 – Hospitalization.
The body functions in a manner that expels that which is not serving you well and needs to exit. And from what I’ve learned, the exit strategy is equivalent to the magnitude of internal harmfulness. Treating my symptoms rather than the root(s) of the problem never solved anything.
So where does the yoga practice fit into all of this?
I was (and still am) incredibly awkward. I suffered physically during every practice for the first few years. I was a silent emotional disaster on the mat. During practice I would have to fight the overwhelming desire to scream out all my rage. When I was told to breathe, my reaction was “this is not helping me”.
Why did I stick to the practice?
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t ALL crazy. Even though I was a disaster on and off of the mat, I knew there was something more behind the practice. I was unfortunately physically challenged just by being a pianist. Wrist sensitivity and the need to keep the hands and fingers supple yet strong prevented me from finding key poses such as downward dogs and planks.
So then how did I stick to the practice?
I was extremely fortunate to be introduced to my teacher, Paulo Hudson, who was sensitive to my needs yet encouraging and knew when to give me a nudge.
What do I have to offer?
I believe that yoga is a universal practice. It does not matter how many physical limitations or concerns you (think you) have, if you are bi-polar, asthmatic, blind, judgmental, one-armed, 3-toed, or an overall emotional walking disaster. You don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way. It all begins with the breath. And if you have forgotten how to breathe, the practice is there to help you not only rediscover your own breath, but also how to use it to maximize your abilities. This blog is an effort to reach out to those who believe what many (including myself at one time) believe – that you have to be flexible with a “yoga body”, that whatever physical or emotional limitations you have are reasons to avoid the practice, or the fact that you “do not have time”. Rather, allow your limitations, beliefs, and ailments to open you up to the practice so that you may discover and receive its timely benefits.
I am by no means healed. I am healing. The skin virus disappeared without a trace (sounds magical but it is the truth). I no longer have anxiety when approaching an escalator. (An escalator! How embarrassing!) The ability to articulate words and thoughts is still challenging but better. I realize I am leaving out many details be they intimate or personal. Maybe one day I’ll grow a pair and share. Onwards until then.