The Chinese have a saying “to move is to live” and I like to remind students that it is not a question of who is the most flexible or the strongest but rather whether you are using your body to its fullest. If you are in a wheelchair, it does not mean that your life is not full. Instead, it means that you must remember to move as much as you are capable of moving to keep your life as full as possible with awareness.
I often hear my students say that “I have not been able to do any yoga because I hurt my back, or my knee…” I am always a bit shocked and then feel so disappointed with myself as a yoga teacher: have I not taught them anything? They can ALWAYS do yoga, but they just need to listen and do what their bodies are instructing, instead of their usual routines, or classes. They were missing a great chance to learn more about their bodies!
I first thought about this point when I attended a wonderful Master Teacher Training at White Lotus in Santa Barbara, CA. Unfortunately at that time, I was having severe sacral joint pain (which I’ll discuss in more detail in another blog about sacral joints) and was not doing any back extension movements. This really limited my ability to participate in many of the group posture sessions in a way that I certainly would have preferred. Other teachers commiserated with me when they said “too bad you are here and you can’t do the poses.” I thought about this and realized I had actually been practicing more yoga throughout my day, for many months, re-evaluating how I did poses, specifically because of these limitations. I learned more during those months of working on that sacral pain than I had in years. It stimulated my practice, woke me up to many new necessary approaches and definitely broadened my sense of yoga. Maybe I was not appearing to be doing the poses with the others at this training, but I was certainly learning a lot and moving in a way my body was allowing me to!
So why am I mentioning this in my very first blog? It is because as I age (I’m in my 60s) and as my body changes with time, what I realize my body needs compared to what my mind remembers it used to do is often at odds. That is when I need to stop my younger mind from guiding my present body from memories rather than from awareness. And that is what I hope I can share with my students: yoga is infinite, inspiring, intense, but also gentle, soothing and soft, depending on your needs.
So, to move is to live. To keep flexible and strong, physically and mentally, will help me to live a full life. And, that is my yoga.