I am not a yoga expert. But I have learned that yoga is all about inhabiting the body - just never really uses that phrase - and so also a tool for pain management. I use what is called Iyengar Yoga, developed by BKS Iyengar, a world-renowned teacher. Iyengar Yoga is a kind of yoga that has made it possible for me to truly enjoy yoga even though I live with chronic pain.
I learned Iyengar Yoga from Carolyn Bluemle, who lives and teaches here in Washington, DC.
I will not try to describe the asanas and poses, not being a teacher of yoga and not wanting to lead anyone astray. But I will say a bit about how Iyengar Yoga helps with PM and inhabiting the body.
What Carolyn taught me is a very gentle process through the poses that uses bolsters and pillows so that the head is never unsupported or under any stress at all. These poses are all described and pictured in the book, Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health. Thus I can gently stretch, using muscles that are creaky from the physical inactivity imposed by chronic pain, and yet - with my head supported - not bring on or make worse a migraine. And the book is packed full of other ways to practice yoga for various physical ills and conditions.
What I have found is that yoga itself is a practice in inhabiting the body. I am focused on being gentle in my movements, careful to support my head, and listening to my body tell me when I have been long enough in a pose. It's all about being in and with the body, which - as I described in the previous post - is for me an essential part of PM. For one thing, I have found that the feeling of presence to the body and its physical movements lasts well beyond the yoga session, reminding me to stay present, to breathe, to be gentle. For another, I find that the presence of physical pain lessens in importance - not that it goes away, but that it recedes a bit into the background.
Sometimes I do yoga before my meditation, sometimes afterwards. Sometimes I take thirty minutes with it, sometimes ten. Often I go for days without any yoga, and when I come back to it, I am always grateful for how it makes me feel.
Being present to my body allows me to be present to the Sacred in all of life:
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
Not think a lot and know that I am God. Not get real busy, do alot of things and know that I am God. Be still to come close to the Sacred, to God, to Allah, to The Great Spirit, to Brahma. It's about a stillness of body, mind and spirit that is cultivated through yoga and similar practices, meditation and prayer.
This is how chronic pain links to and from my spiritual life. This is why I write this blog: to remind myself that God is present in all of my life and that my pain can be involved in leading me ever closer to that which is sacred and holy.
May you find help and support in this post.
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