I am studying therapeutic gentle yoga with Rev. Padma Devi at the Special Yoga Foundation in London. The course is spread over 100 hours at weekends throughout the year. To date it has been a revelation….
The first weekend I arrived with my notebook and pen to hear Padma say, ‘If you’re expecting to get a list of ailments with a corresponding list of yoga postures – think again’. I realised that’s exactly what I was expecting, but that’s not how Padma works.
The course notes she supplies cover only a fraction of what we discuss together in class. Thanks to Padma I have been introduced to the work of Bruce Lipton and Rob Williams, the fantastic programme for overcoming heart disease by Dr Dean Ornish,
and the truly horrendous statistics that you discover if you Google bisphenol A. I come away with a reading list that will require at least 2 more lifetimes. I have a book pile entitled ‘READ ME NOW!’ that includes work by John Stirk, Candace Pert, Nischala Joy Devi, and Fiona Agombar. At the top of the pile is a little book on self healing using tuning fork sound therapy entitled, ‘How to Fork Yourself’ (by Debbi Walker).
Padma has taught me that less is always more in yoga, especially when teaching people with chronic pain. I have learned how big an impact toxic and emotional overload have on our health. For example, it’s enormously hard to help yourself if you suffer from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. If you just fight back from a place of anger and fear, you are feeding the pain. There has to be a moment of acceptance and surrender before any healing can take place and even then it requires enormous commitment and strength of will to make a change. I have deep admiration for people who, faced with all this, still manage to get on with their lives. Acceptance and surrender are things we know about in yoga. Other things we can offer are being inside our bodies rather than outside (and learning to listen to them), breathing well and practicing yoga nidra. I am beginning to think that Yoga Nidra (and Tamla Motown, but then I’m old) could save the world.
When we looked at problems of heart disease and blood pressure, we were privileged to have two volunteers so Padma could show us how she works. ‘Can you see where the breath is?’, she asked us when working with a man who’d had a triple heart by-pass. And we could – way up in the top of the chest. We also noticed his reluctance to perform any movements that involved opening at the heart centre. Unsurprisingly he was very protective of that space and Padma scaled down the movements to a point at which he felt comfortable.
Our other volunteer was in charge of a station on a major transport network, coping with an average of two suicides a week. Needless to say, they suffered from high blood pressure! Just a brief introduction to abdominal breathing proved to be mind-blowing and was followed by a request for someone to organise a yoga class for people working at the station..
It’s an exciting time to practice yoga. The scientists are just beginning to catch up with us, and we are perfectly placed to really help people in this difficult and isolating age we live in.
Om shanti. xxx