For thirteen years I’ve been a fan of yoga. Not an addict. Not a stalker. A fan. I’ve enjoy the practice and fit it into my life as was appropriate, meaning, sometimes it’s taken a back seat to other areas that needed my attention. In theory, I wanted to be more committed to my practice, but activities like motherhood, moving, and volunteerism got in the way. Looking back, I believe that was part of the problem. My theoretical yoga practice had a bigger hold on me than my actual one.
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root word yuj which means “to yoke”, or “unite” and many claim it’s specifically about the union between mind, body and spirit. Because the word may also derive from the root “yujir samadhau,” which means “contemplation”, you can see how for some, yoga is more about the mind and/or spirit and less about the body. Which is fine if you need a distraction from always focusing on the physical and hating yourself, like I’ve done most of my life. But if your default setting is always set to “cerebral” as mine tends to be (because it’s a lot easier to ignore the body that you hate if you spend the majority of your time in your head) it was easier to focus on living my yoga than performing poses on a mat.
I had hoped that yoga would eventually bring balance to the body part of the equation. I think sensing this innate need is what inspired me to sign up for yoga teacher training (YTT), but in the end it was my mind that made the decision because teacher training was also a way to make a living. Since I was already volunteering at the studio and really liked the yogis I met there, it seemed like a smart idea to make money doing something I enjoyed. Regardless I was going to FINALLY give my yoga practice the attention it deserved (while secretly hoping that yoga would give me the physical body I’ve always wanted).
That was the plan, until my head took center stage because besides going to numerous yoga classes, YTT meant reading books about yoga, taking notes from lectures about yoga, conversing about yoga and and thinking various thoughts about yoga. This of course was my favorite part of the training because it kept yoga between my ears where it truly liked to be.
After paying my first deposit and receiving my book list, I got cracking. Instead of going to class I read Power Yoga and Moving Into Stillness. Rather than doing asanas, I memorized their sanskrit names. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali? Something I discussed with my classmates in lieu of actually experiencing them.
Training to be a yoga teacher quenched my thirst for yogic knowledge. It meant understanding anatomy, physiology and contra-indications for poses. I learned facts about properly sequencing a class and was taught the best way to verbalize alignment cues. Because I intellectualized yoga so much, I spent most of my physical practices analyzing the teaching styles of the instructor and stealing ideas to use for future classes. Thus yoga, even when training to be a teacher, continued to be a cerebral endeavor.
But then an interesting thing happened. By the third weekend of training I was hitting the studio every couple of days attending vinyasa flow and even some hot yoga classes. Besides simply doing more yoga, I was also walking daily and eating healthy. Finally and perhaps for the first time in my life I was allowing my consciousness the luxury of settling within my body and staying present in it for more than a few seconds, here and there. Yoga was slowly (and without a lot of fanfare I might add), doing it’s job.
Then, halfway through teacher training as I was FINALLY on my way to unifying my mind, body and spirit, a freak accident occurred. I hit my head. Hard. The dizziness that made practicing more difficult was no where near as problematic as the results from my MRI. It seems that yet again, my head was getting in the way of my performing the asanas. Not my mind per say, but my brain itself. The physical body that I’d become expert at ignoring must have finally had it, so to get my attention, it moved north to officially compete with my mind.
Turns out, I wasn’t just a yogi with a concussion or an inability to yoke her mind to her body.
I was a yogi with 9 brain lesions.
I was a yogi with Multiple Sclerosis.
Yes, that’s correct. A yogi lousy at living in her body got the disease that affects the body with an alarming level of inconsistency. The disease that constantly brings your attention back to your body due to the ever changing plethora of physical symptoms it creates.
Did you hear that?
That was the sound of my personal yoga practice crashing into a brick wall.
I know what you’re thinking. A progressive neurological diagnosis? Or course she turned to her yoga practice to create health and wellness.
Naw. I didn’t have time for that. I had to go get a job.