Fifty years of adaption
Next year marks the 50th year that I’ve been practising yoga.
Sometimes when I say that to students in class, I’ll add: This is how someone turns out after doing this much practice.
It’s one of my weak jokes. I mean to say, I’m pretty healthy but I’m not a total paragon of health and fitness. I’m a seventy six year old with a collection of old injuries and medical conditions, and some of the infirmities of ageing.
The good thing about staying with yoga all these years is that those injuries, conditions and ageing have taught me how to adapt. They’ve all been teachers, shaping my approach to yoga, and even my attitude towards life. Yoga is an amazing discipline for helping you get in touch with yourself if you are willing to learn.
One of my greatest teachers has been the nearly twenty years I suffered from osteoarthritis.
As a result of being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, the outcome of which was going to be hip surgery, I began to learn about other healing systems.
I studied the sister science to yoga, Ayurveda, and consulted with Dr. Shaun Matthews. He recommended lifestyle and diet changes that I still adhere to.
I found some miraculous healers who work as physiotherapists. Nichole Hamilton is a specialist in hip dysfunction and trains other physiotherapists. She introduced me to the technique of craniosacral therapy. In her hands I was putty. I always felt spiritually integrated after her treatments.
Currently I have a small stable of brilliant local physios, Aaron Bailey and Meghan Maguire, who deal with my injuries as they inevitably arise.
I value acupuncture. After my hip diagnosis, I saw an acupuncturist who worked with the Sydney Dance Company’s ballet dancers. I underwent two hour-long treatments that involved being needled, heat lamps, massage, and electrodes that stimulated acupuncture points. I would be pain-free, sometimes for hours, and then sometimes, miraculously, for days.
A lifetime of busyness and drivenness had me reappraise how much I was doing. In the 80’s and 90’s, I was managing a yoga school and teaching, running errands, keeping appointments, attending meetings, rushing in traffic, managing a home and fitting in a hectic social life. Cramming this much in, I was often tired and wouldn’t admit it.
I really needed to relax!
Although I’d been teaching my students how to relax for years, I didn’t take the time to practice relaxation myself. I began listening to audio recordings by Dr. Richard C. Miller. I let myself surrender to his soothing voice. I still submit to Miller’s yoga nidra and to the meditations of Jon Kabat-Zinn.
I did workshops with Judith Hanson Lasater and Donna Farhi. I expanded my repertoire of restorative poses in my own practice and taught these to my students. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t take time out for several of these propped postures.
What does my practice look like now?
What I do now is very different from the decades when I subscribed to a strict Iyengar yoga practice. In my approach to my body and mind, I am gentler and more thoughtful in what I do on the yoga mat.
I’ve adopted several other strings for my health and fitness bow.
- Loving kindness meditation, an everyday practice since 2016. My motivation comes from the meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn. He says ‘You can think of the loving-kindness practice as tuning your instrument before you play it out in the world.’
- Doubles tennis and tennis lessons, once a week.
- Barre classes with Wendie Dawson, weekly.
- Hour-long beach walks, several times a week.
- Spinal movements sequences a la Simon Borg-Olivier
- Free weights workouts, 3 x week.
And I’m still learning. In March, I’m attending a weekend workshop with Clive Sheridan in Port Macquarie. The workshop description says: Clive will guide us in deep and sensitive pranayama sessions, introducing certain important breathing rhythms. These rhythms, which are calming at the time of practicing them, gradually harness a deeper energetic vitality that awakens from within us.
Just the thing to inspire me for my next decades of yoga practice.