Heal thy Self? Why Yoga is More than Just a Practice
Yogaś citta vrtti nirodhah.
‘Yoga is stilling the mind’ (1.2)
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
…. “My neck was broken at C2 and C3, dislocated at C3 and C4. One of the men in white coats informed me that if I moved my head and neck, I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. My spinal column was resting on an open fracture, the equivalent of a piece of string on a razor blade; one false move and could have been it. In this moment, I came face to face with my own entombment.”
I was dumb founded. Did yoga really transform the life of someone from being paralysed and on the verge of death to a thriving wellness entrepreneur? If you meet Chris, you wouldn’t know he was at one point knocking on heaven’s door.
Take also the story of Niraj Shah, co-founder of the inspirational organisation, The Present of Yoga (TPOY), the project that is ‘Demystifying Business for Yogis’. After having the (mis) fortune of suffering a stroke at the very early age of 30, Niraj took up yoga as a means of physical exercise. In Niraj’s own words:
“The part of my brain that controlled my balance had died and I had lost the “knowledge” of how to walk – although I could still feel muscle strength in my legs I could not move them. We had a lot less visibility on what other brain damage may have occurred. I was coherent and could think but could not move my lower body and felt extremely tired.”
Not only has he now made a full recovery, he’s a successful entrepreneur involved in many pursuits. He’s also seen regularly on a snowboard during the winter months, much to my envy! You can read more about Niraj’s uplifting story and his stroke of good fortune at TPOY.
Susanne Haegele, my partner, also holds the practice of yoga close to her heart. Susanne has completed courses with the renowned Birthlight organisation, recently doing a course specialising in women’s health. Susanne is a strong proponent of the many health benefits of yoga for women, particularly in middle age. According to Susanne:
“the techniques of yoga can help improve the flow of energy through the pelvis, removing stagnation and allowing a woman to feel empowered with her health.”
‘Empowering’ is the word. All thanks to yoga.
However, there are times when I admit I am a bit cynical, especially when I see ‘Yoga Inc’ in action (you know the ‘big business’ side of yoga). I had one experience recently at the gym where yoga was being promoted as a means of ‘altering your genes’. I initially scoffed at this, questioning how was this possible.
However, much to my surprise and joy, this claim was recently confirmed that yoga may relax inflammation genes, where the altering of gene expression was seen possible through yoga and other mind body practices such as mindfulness meditation.
‘Gene expression’ is the means by which our environment affects or influences our genes. The study of epigenetics is this exciting area. The implication of this, is that particular genetic conditions may not always materialise, if we can alter or affect the environment in which we live. “Do more Yoga” as Louise Grime from the Life Centre always says, after attending her restorative classes. Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘slumber party’ yoga as my dear friend Penelope would say. 🙂
So there you have it folks. Yoga really can be the stuff of miracles. The amazing thing is that it all began with the story of the mind. What now emerges is its incredible all round healing powers. The more the better I say – the world really does need it.
Let us never forget though – the special practice of yoga is more than just about the bottom line.
What’s your special story – has yoga transformed your life in any way?
ps I sincerely thank Chris, Niraj and Susanne, for the copy included in this post, for which their stories inspired me. Namaste.