“Hatha Yoga is not the ultimate goal. Hatha Yoga makes us aware that the body with its inestimable qualities is everything that we have in life; for we enter this world naked and leave this world naked. For that reason we must get the best out of our body. The more we strive to unfold the perfections of the body, the more quickly our mental capacities unfold: power of concentration, memory, willpower and resolution. The blessing of Hatha Yoga is threefold: health, well-being and long life.” —Selvarajan Yesudian. When students walked into a class, I could see right away what was wrong with them, physically or emotionally, just by the way they moved and from the sound of their voice. Yoga gave me the vision to help people heal themselves of life-long problems. I knew what they needed to do to feel better. It became obvious to me how people could really heal themselves by becoming conscious through Yoga, and not just because of back pain. I walked around for quite some time a bit stunned from it all, wondering how this could have happened. Sven had never studied Yoga and knew nothing about it. Where did his dream come from? How did he know what I needed? But as I wrote in the beginning of this section, I reached a point where asking questions became a futile exercise. This was the beginning of my journey into the world of Yoga. Is this a coincidence? Is it fate? Does it matter? Not really. The only thing that matters is how it changed my life for the better. And as a result, hundreds upon hundreds of other people's lives were also improved. It doesn't get any better than that! There is nothing more rewarding than being able to help others to feel better.
Something Awful Brings Something SpectacularIf I hadn't fallen down those stairs, perhaps none of this ever would've happened. This is why I continue to believe that what seems to be completely negative or frightening when it happens, could be so for a reason, and it's almost always for the best. I did finally return to school. By the time I enrolled at the University of Stockholm, I also had my own Yoga studio in a penthouse apartment in the most beautiful part of the city, on a famous walking street (Biblioteksgatan = Library Street). It was beautiful, something any Yoga teacher would be thrilled to have (thanks to Kerstin von Rettig, a wonderful woman who was a stage set designer for the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm). There are some awesome examples of how Yoga helped many of my students. There were many emotional breakthroughs. It is my belief that we underestimate the body's ability to hold in emotions as a child, which can cause physical or mental problems later when we are older. I've had proof of this repeatedly.
Restorative YogaHere is a story that actually took place in Stockholm in the mid-1970s. As a psychology major, I began to teach Yoga & Sex to psychology students from the university. One of my professors asked if I would give him private lessons—understandably not wanting to be in a class with his students. He came to the studio once a week. He was beyond stiff. He drank too much. He was impotent. He was a very unhappy person. When he walked, his groin seemed to disappear into the back of his thighs. His hips were hiding. His back was rounded. This was not going to be easy. This story is a good example of what can happen because of unresolved, deep-rooted emotional problems from the past. I could see enormous emotional problems just by what his body was unable to do. It was a direct response to something repetitive from his childhood—this much I knew intuitively. In the same way that repetitive motion can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, being hurt emotionally, over and over again, can change the natural structure of the body. The muscles respond to the repetitive emotions.
I watched every movement he made with curiosity. Any exercise that could have opened his hips was impossible for him to do. I got out all my books and read my notes and went into my mental inventory to try to figure out the best way to help him. I talked to Eugenia about it, and she told me to follow my gut on this one. She was convinced that I would do the right thing. After the 5th class, it was becoming more difficult to believe that he could be helped. And then it dawned on me. This man is stuck in this position. I knew that I had to do something to get him unstuck, to open him up. Without thinking about it, I told him to lie on his stomach and we would try, again, to do the Bow pose (as my teacher, Eugenia, demonstrates below). He could not even get his knees to budge from the floor. I am not a believer in no pain no gain (that's just a bunch of brainwashed madness as far as I'm concerned), but I was also not a believer in being stuck. I stood over him and told him to lift his chin off the floor and place his arms behind him on his back, comfortably. And then I lifted his feet and his knees off the floor at the same time while I stood above him facing his feet. He let out a bloodcurdling scream and panic set in. What had I done? I got down on the floor beside him to ask if I had hurt him, and he just kept yelling and crying, “No! No! Wait.” I let him sob until he stopped on his own. When he pulled himself together, he explained what happened when I lifted his legs off the floor. He had a vivid memory that he felt physically and emotionally. He was tiny, sitting on his father's shoulders. He was a baby. His father would hold his hands and then let him hold himself up, and he loved to do this. He could feel the joy and hear himself giggling in this position. But then his mother, filled with fear and only trying to protect him, kept grabbing him from his hips as she yelled at his father, (in Swedish) “What are you trying to do, kill our baby?” It was the repetitive motion that he had to make to stop her—pulling his thighs together as tight as he could around his father's neck to stay there. He felt his entire pelvis tighten up. He felt the emotion of complete helplessness. He could not stop her. And he realized that he never came out of that position! He got stuck right there on his father's neck, where he felt so good. I asked him to stand up and walk. We were both exhausted and excited at the same time. When he stood up, with tears still streaming down his cheeks, his hips were normal. His back was straight. He was healed. Yes, just like this it happened. I know that this sounds really farfetched, but it's true. Most doctors would pooh-pooh this as exaggeration. Sorry. These are the facts just as they happened. Bottom line: He quit drinking, was no longer impotent, and his life began at the age of 36. For anyone who teaches Yoga, this is not an unusual story. There are many little miracles that take place, but not all of them are quite so obvious. Some others include the loss of weight that naturally occurs just from being more in touch with what one eats. Others quit smoking after learning the Complete Yoga Breath. People who are too thin gain weight with the increased appetite that results. One could go on and on and on. But the next story is another little miracle that was obvious to everyone in the room...