ARTICLE BY DAWN ARNO
In today’s consumer society many people have become dissociated from their true sense of self. They have sought gratification, happiness and fulfilment from the pursuit of perfection.
The perfect job, the perfect partner, the perfect home, the perfect body. We are all guilty of it. Yes even us yogis….the perfect asana, the perfect physique to demonstrate the perfect asana.
As our society has evolved and become more civilised it would seem we have moved away from the simplicity that is essentially nature’s chemist, healer and beauty box. We have spent so much time trying to turn our lives into a magazine cover we have lost touch with our internal rhythms.
One of the beautiful things about yoga and meditation is that it teaches us to listen honestly to those internal rhythms. How much food, water, exercise or sleep we need.
How often do you spend time tasting your food, listening to see if you are still hungry and eating what we need rather than what we think we should eat. How often do you take appropriate exercise? Do you have the same practise day on day or do you change it to fit in with your cycle, your needs, and your health. Do you sleep when you are tired and get up when you wake or do you fit in with some regimented anarchic view that you must have eight hours or you’re not going to be refreshed.
Yoga teaches us how to listen to those rhythms and then how to set appropriate boundaries for ourselves.
In asana practise we learn to listen to when we are at our limit and when to be still or when to move deeper into a pose. Do we push too far, unable to say no for fear of losing face, or losing out? Maybe we are lazy and don’t push enough but stay safely within our comfort zone, afraid of trying new things. Perhaps we compete with others around us, not feeling good enough unless we can do the same or better than others in the class. These boundaries or lack of them are truly a pure and honest reflection of our interaction with the world around us. What happens on the mat is just a mirror of our experiences in the world.
By listening and respecting the boundaries we have it is possible to achieve that elusive state of health and well-being that pharmaceutical and beauty companies, magazines, television, fashion and lifestyle gurus spend MILLIONS trying to sell us.
As the Bhagavad Gita tells us, ‘The soul that moves in the world of the senses and yet keeps the senses in harmony….finds rest in quietness.’
We yogis know that health and beauty – real health and beauty – is not something you buy in a bottle, pill or cream. It is not found in the best yoga mat or the right membership to the best yoga studio. You can’t buy it. No amount of money creating the most perfect home, body, clothes and lifestyle will ever bring you beauty and health that shines out of the individual who has listened, heard and responded to their internal dialogue. It has to be earned, earned through applying the five principles of Hatha Yoga. Proper relaxation, proper exercise, proper breathing, proper diet and positive thinking and meditation.
The simplicity of nature is profound and miraculous. People the world over are now beginning to feel the benefits of applying the yogi lifestyle. The medical profession are beginning to cautiously accept the benefits – encouraging patients to try yoga for high blood pressure, stress, insomnia, anxiety and back ache.
When the student practises asana it is possible for the physical body to be repaired even in profoundly ill patients. I have used the following techniques with students who had Breast Cancers and Multiple Sclerosis with very good results.
I am very careful to never advice the student on medical matters, either diagnosis or comment on their medications. I leave that up to them to explore. But alongside whatever they choose to do I have implement the following practices. Some of the students utilized western medicine and others choose to go it alone. It is fair to say that in my admittedly limited experience the students found the technique of huge benefit to them mentally, physically and emotionally.
But always I will refer them to ancient wisdom of yoga and its healing powers> As the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says, ‘Asanas make one firm, free from maladies, and light of limb.’
The practise of doing something for themselves to help their recovery or at least manage their symptoms was immensely empowering. Often when a person discovers they have a serious or potentially fatal condition they feel disempowered. They are put on drugs which can cause horrific side effects, sometimes the side effects can be worse than the illness. They may be mutilated in surgery, they may be put under extreme pressure by doctors, family and friends. And yes, they may have no choice but to take the drugs or have the surgery, but by taking some control back their sense of empowerment returns and with it a belief in there own ability to heal. As I point out to all of the clients at the outset, our cells replicate at an amazing speed, we have a completely new liver every six weeks. Our eyes are renewed every couple of days. Our body wants to heal, it is programmed to heal, create the right environment within your body and utilise the power of your mind and miracles can and do happen.
Together with a group of professionals I am creating a study to explore the benefits which can be achieved with yoga, meditation, reflexology and cranial sacral therapy on Multiple Sclerosis.
Below is just one example of a client I am working with at the moment.
This 44 year old lady began her practise 18 months ago. She had a distinct limp, poor stamina and a highly rigid spine. She was in constant pain due to activity of her nervous system which was in a constant state of alertness.
At first during classes she experienced great frustration at her limitations. Constantly comparing herself to the other students in the class, pushing herself way beyond appropriate limits, and became angry and tearful with balancing postures in particular.
She has learnt to listen. Stops when it is enough, move within her own range of movement, to push where appropriate and to be present in her asanas. She began in a beginner’s class working very gently but methodically building strength and stamina. She now attends four asana classes each week and her postures are equal to the most advanced students in the class.
She commented in the study recently that when she first attended class she was unable to perform any asanas which involved lifting her left leg due to the nerve damage which is irreparable – however she now can perform many poses including balances such as Ekapadangustasana and the elusive T balance. She believes that her practise has re-routed the signals from the brain to the leg. Obviously this is unverified and without much research and documentation we have no way to PROVE it. But it is interesting and worth a pause.
In her most recent M.R.I. scan it was revealed she was in a highly active phase of relapse, her spinal column was lit up like a fluorescent bulb. Her specialist could not believe she was walking, exercising, healthy and strong. Unfortunately, this specialist is opposed to yoga as he believes it to be potentially dangerous. So she has as of yet been unable to tell him that she believes her result is due to her consistent practise.
We combined this practise with meditation and proper and adequate relaxation. As yogis we know that relaxation is perhaps one of the most powerful techniques we have. When our bodies are in a truly relaxed state the cells are allowed to repair more efficiently, our body’s organs and systems are given time to rest, restore and repair. Combine the relaxation with a powerful yoga nidra and the effects can and are profound, indeed miraculous.
Scientists and doctors agree now that the power of the mind is paramount in the recovery of a patient who is ill or has been in surgery. Patients who believe they will die or get worse are much more likely to get that result. Patients who stay positive, upbeat and pro-active are known to do better and have a faster and more complete recovery.
So by harnessing the power of their minds the student is able to send a powerful message to the nervous system suggesting the nerves calm, cool find a stillness – indeed they are essentially listening to what their body’s inner rhythm is telling them and then allowing the body to begin the repair and recovery process by creating time, space and the best possible environment for change.
The meditation I use takes the student deep into Savasana and then asks them to focus on the breath. They visualise the breath as being a brilliant white which is sent through the spine then out into the nervous system. They then will visualise the healing breath as cooling, stilling and calming the nerves.
This meditation lasts 20 minutes and should be done at least once a day. It is particularly good for the student when they are in an active phase of M.S. as it seems to work very well in reducing pain. I put the meditation on a c.d. and this is available for anyone who wishes to utilise it. Please simply e-mail with your details.
Perhaps in this time of change which is upon all of us we may find a return to simple pleasures and a sense of well-being, health and joy which comes from really knowing ourselves and not just projecting what we believe we should want or need to be PERFECT.
Through our practise our moment to moment sense of awareness we can bring ourselves back into a sense of beingness….
‘There is a spirit which is pure and which is beyond old age and death…This is Atman, the spirit in man.’Chandogya Upanishad
For information on Dawn’s meditation c.d.s and retreats please contact Dawn on firstname.lastname@example.org