Need a bit of juicy explanation for the universe? I have just read Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddess of Yoga by Sally Kempton which inspired my latest workshop. Perhaps you have been pondering the power of attraction since love was in the air last week. Or maybe you just need a lovely, re-vitalising savasana with visions of creation, eroticism and a healthy dose of the path to samadhi that will awaken your artistic side, creativity and sensual allure. This is the theme of my latest recorded savasana available now on my web site (see Track 3 on Zephyr In Her Own Words on the right side of the page). This is a recording from my workshop on February 21 where we focused on Lalita Tripura Sundari: Goddess of Erotic Spirituality of the three worlds.
Her power is the ability to carry us beyond the mundane through love making or inner mystical union and leave us with the highest form of spiritual bliss. She is the reason for the origin of the universe and continuation of it. As the story goes while Shiva is in meditation, nothing exists, the universe has collapsed. When she awoke Shiva, the universe was created and union between the two becomes one of the most erotic and enlightening stories ever imagined. The story of their union has become the aspiration of all who seek the divine and ultimate partnership.
She is represented in many stories in many ways but the constant is that she represents ultimate partnership, attraction (actually binding molecules together to create form), activity, bliss and even cleansing the doors of your perception to see the world as it really is: shimmering with beauty (Kempton, Awakening Shakti p.289).
We had a lot of fun discussing Lalita on Sunday, but I wanted to start this week embracing the coming of the new month, with a bit more sunlight in our day, to heighten the shimmering beauty around us and to help arouse the creative play and sensual allure that we all posses. Spring is almost here and with the coming of March the beauty of the trees blossoming, the flowers blooming and the birds singing are all that much closer to surrounding us. This savasana is designed to help you take a moment to take it all in, the creation of all the beauty, our innate attraction to beauty and observe the creativity and playfulness within ourselves and all around us.
The way we physically carry ourselves, our posture, our gait and our physical alignment sends a message to the world conveying our mood, attitude and our perspective of how we experience our quality of living. Those that are trained to recognise how the body is moving and what kind of (mis)alignment one possesses and how to correct it, can be incredible healers for those that suffer with pain. Using Yoga as therapy and addressing the underlying causes of habitual misaligned postures, the management of chronic pain and reeducating our bodies for greater well-being is one of the focuses of my upcoming workshop: The Middle Path.
In this workshop we will focus on our Flexion Addiction. An example of flexion addiction is illustrated by our modern human tendency to sit too much and for too long which causes movement syndromes leading to chronic back pain. This ‘flexion addiction’ creates a state where our body experiences amnesia and forgets how to contract or release, creating conditions for greater imbalance. The main objective for this workshop is to inform students on how to create pain-free movement by restoring postural balance. We will learn how to preform postural assessment and use yoga-asana and simple movement based techniques to therapeutically address the imbalances. Using the information gathered from the workshop we can start recovering from this amnesia, re-connecting and support this ongoing process of healing.
For more information on this workshop please click here.
My personal path back to yoga
When I was 20 years old I started having spasms in my lower legs and feet which would last up to eight hours. The triggers were frustratingly, very inconsistent. When I was finally diagnosed with a Talocalcaneal coalition and an inverted heel in both ankles (this is where the ankle bone and the heel bone melts together, damaging the joint movement, nerves and soft tissues) I was on crutches most of the time, being carried to the toilet and on heavy pain killers. My orthopaedic surgeon said I had 80 year old feet and that he could separate the joint, however he could not guarantee I would be free from pain. Upon hearing this news I sat at home defeated, thinking I would never be able to walk, run, carry children or ever be free from the chronic pain. I surrendered, as there was nothing else I could do to force the traditional medical community to fix me and in that exact moment a voice in my head said, “go back to yoga”.
I did yoga with my mum and her friends as a young girl, however, as a teen I rebelled as it was so boring. My time was better spent running in the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains, cycling, rock climbing and hanging out with friends being moody teens. After my rebellious stage I had not thought of yoga until I moved to the UK and became stricken with the chronic pain. When that little voice spoke to me I was aware of a few classes around the corner from where I worked in London. For the first six weeks I would go to three different teachers who’s approaches to yoga were all very different. I would sit there, listen and do the best I could to move and I would cry. I cried for two reasons: the first reason was that the pain was so intense to try and manage I thought that I couldn’t take it. The second reason was the vulnerability I felt in attending a group and showing that I wasn’t managing my body anymore. This realisation unlocked desperation, shame and an emotional mess within me. This was hard for the person I saw in myself, because she was strong, capable and independent. To need and accept help was the hardest thing to allow. Not only was I dealing with my current physical state, I also unleashed this part that was holding onto previous experienced trauma, fears of facing a lifetime of physical disability and the constant reminders of what I had lost…
I found that I was emotionally and physically melting from my foundation. About the same time of attending regular yoga classes, I saw a therapist that specialised in co-dependency family issues, and started attending regular Alanon meetings. I look back on it and see that the historical, emotional and physical healing all needed to happen together. I was able to start to see how my body walked, sat, and interacted with my life. Linking my physical chronic pain and my psychological pain together.
After some time, I remember a point in my yoga practice that I would be pain-free for a few hours. This grew to a day, two days, a week and now, I am with out pain everyday. During my first four years of practice, it unfolded a lot of other issues that my misalignment caused: sensory motor amnesia in muscles, acquired scoliosis, chronic headaches-migraines, a bulging L4 and L5 disk that caused femoral nerve misfiring; this meant that my leg would give out and stop working (falling over in the street as graceful as possible became a necessary skill of mine). I focused my time in rebuilding my body, determined to use my love for human anatomy and physiology to reeducate myself. I could see there was a line or ‘sutra’ that ran up my body linking all of it together in this matrix of emotional, mental and physical holding, that everything is connected, that nothing acts alone. My posture that protected me, however, over time was causing me further harm. I would attend every workshop, and consult every yoga teacher who knew anything about structural alignment. I was consumed with reading about the subject and filling my brain with solutions rather than focus on the problem. I give most of my credit of holistically healing to two teachers: Doug Keller and Rod Stryker, who have passed on to me the living traditions of yoga and therapeutically healing ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically.
Although I still have the coalition, I now know how to manage it. I have to keep my body strong as I have loose ligaments holding certain joints together and I have to release other parts of my body that work to stabilise my instabilities. I am conscious of my good and bad patterns. Though sometimes I may fall off my path and pain reoccurs, yoga gives me the skill and knowhow to take action to get back on my path for this continual healing and rediscovering myself at any given time.
The hard part these days is I see my ageing body with all my limitations and I look at the gymnastic yoga out there that seems to be capturing all of the attention and I wonder what is this movement really about? I catch myself comparing my practice to others and even yearning to do extreme yoga poses, which only leaves me with the residue of frustration and a lack of self-acceptance. But when I come back to my senses and recognise myself having a deeper relationship with my body over the past 18 years, with this maturity, I have accepted that I had to let go of certain yoga poses as they are not helpful to my condition and leave me in a lot of pain. I practice my yoga to create balance, to reconnect, embody and ultimately to prepare my body for my meditation practice. I want to feel good rather than look good. As hard as I am finding it, watching the popular world of yoga follow a path I seem to be diverging from, I have learned that along with Doug and Rod, I have to place my body, my will and my heart amongst my greatest teachers. I put my full trust into them. I know that the lessons I have learned from them will continue to serve me on this path and by passing on these lessons to others, will serve my community.
My upcoming Workshop; The Middle Path, is something I have been working on for a long time now. It is the culmination of years of study, suffering, heartache and most of all, restoration. The constant through it all has been my yoga practice, my struggle with physical pain and my relationship with the world of addiction and recovery. While I have never battled with addiction personally, too many people that I have loved in my life, have. The darkness it brought to my life was at times unbearable, yet I found solace through my yoga practice and the systematic approach to recovery that I chose to embrace. I also suffered through physical pain that came into being during adolescence and was only relieved in my twenties once I found the root cause of my pain and worked hard to counteract the part of my body that was at war with itself. I found a very personal and very pro-active approach to dealing with my suffering that involved yoga and meditation but also a serious amount of self-reflection and exploration of my choices, repetitive movements and actions. As I continued down my path I realised there are so many people out there suffering in so many different ways. Some suffer with addiction, some suffer with physical pain, some suffer with mental and emotional issues that are deep seeded and have roots that can take years to unearth. But the suffering is there and it is real and our ability to alleviate that suffering is inside all of us if we can only find the methodology and approach to recognise it’s roots, surrender to them, and work hard to move beyond them.
The Middle Path is that approach. It is something I have come to explore and celebrate in my life as it is the learning and understanding of how the philosophy of yoga can be of service to those suffering in all forms. The physical practice of what we know as Yoga and the philosophy behind it is a study of “skill in action” or put another way “informed navigation in life”. With the knowledge of ourselves and insight into why we have physical pain, suffer emotional trauma, or battle with any multitude of disorders, we can use active movement along with meditation and even breathing techniques to find an acceptance and a release of the cause of our suffering and commit to action and informed choices in order to be free. The knowledge and practice of The Middle Path is restoring the balance to our lives and relieving the suffering in a way that is bespoke to each one of us as individuals. It is using yoga as a transformative force for holistic positive change and helping others discover that change themselves.
In my life I have been blessed with the knowledge and understanding through the guidance of my teachers of what it is to really have self-knowledge and more importantly, how to use that self knowledge to create a system of informed navigation through life. I, much like many of my students, have been through dark times and the feeling of hopelessness is an easy adversary to surrender to. Those who live with pain suffer that same hopelessness and often have found little or no relief from western medicine. Hopelessness and suffering is a familiar spectre to those suffering from emotional and psychological affliction. It does not have to be like this. The simple acknowledgement of our suffering is the beginning to the restoration, balance and the relief that we can manifest. Each one of us has a very personal suffering, yet each one of us can have a very customised relief from it.
The Middle Path can bring that relief to you and those in your community. Finding a methodology for self-knowledge and learning to help others discover that same skill will be the focus of my first workshop. This will be the foundation that we as yogis can build upon to create an understanding and a practice of Yoga as Therapy. Join us and find out how you can help create a bespoke dynamic therapy for yourself and those in your community.
For more information, or to join us and register and click here.
Join Zephyr as she guides you through this workshop consisting of a short lecture and study of the deity, asana, mantra and meditation inspired by the Goddess Lalita Tripura Sundari.
This workshop will be playful exploration of self love from Lalita Tripura Sundari, the Goddess of Erotic Spirituality of the physical, subtle and casual experiences.
We will study her divinely desirable form as the Goddess, learn from her stories of the erotic play directing the outer-mind into the spiritual-heart. We will use the Shri Yantra as a map to carry us beyond the mundane to the sensual merging of our desire for self-empowerment and spiritual delight.
For the seekers who attend, she will awaken your creative impulses, the sensations that bring us into higher states of union of our male & female aspects, ultimately revealing a blissfulness to our meditation and yogic practices.
Suitable for all levels and genders.
21 February 2016, 2-4pm @thelifecentre Notting Hill £25
For online booking or more information click here.