No More Excuses—The Gift of Yoga

Reasons people give saying they can’t do yoga:

–I’m too stiff.

–I have arthritis.

–I’m overweight.

–I have a bad back.

–I’m too old.

–I’m a guy.

Let me describe the people in one of my recent classes: 

-Their ages range from 42 to 82. 

-One is blind. 

-One has scoliosis and deals with chronic pain from post-polio syndrome. One has fibromyalgia. 

-One’s a guy. 

-Half of them can’t touch their toes. 

Let me describe their teacher:

I am 54. I took my first yoga class in 1995, shortly after I learned I had advanced osteoarthritis in my left hip. I had been told at age 25 that I suffered from early-onset joint and disc degeneration and that I had the knees of an 80-year-old. I had my first joint surgery a few months later. It left me more crippled in the knees than before. I had suffered from crippling back pain since I was 18.

By the time I took that first yoga class, I could walk about a quarter mile. I could go up and down stairs only with assistance. I had to use my hands to move my feet onto the gas pedal and brake to drive to that first class. I sat on the floor and burst into tears from the pain. My teacher gave me a stack of towels to sit on and I could stop crying. 

An hour and 15 minutes later, the back pain was gone.

I began studying how to teach and then began teaching yoga in 1997.  Fifteen months later, I had to have that left hip replaced. The doctor told me I would have been there much sooner if it hadn’t been for the yoga. Three months later, I had the second hip replaced. 

My recovery period: five weeks. At week four after each replacement, I was walking up and down Mt. Rubidoux, a 3.5-mile round trip on a big hill in my hometown. My doctor also attributed that recovery pace to the yoga. The doctor also noted that my entire spine was degenerating, as were all my joints.

In 2004, although my back pain was mostly gone, I was aware that damage existed and I had sharp pain in my neck. I had X-rays and then an MRI done. The lowest disc in my spine was completely gone; next one up was half gone; I had ground bone away from my lowest vertebra; I had bulging discs and bone spurs in my neck. I set to work on the neck problems in my yoga practice, and the pain was gone in about two weeks.

When I started practicing yoga, and for years after I started teaching, I couldn’t come anywhere close to touching my toes. I couldn’t do backbends, I couldn’t do forward bends, my standing poses were narrow and wobbly. Even as a teacher, I felt frightened in most poses all the time. I still do.

What got me going in yoga: pain.

What kept me there: Hope. Hope and inspiration, deriving from the constant, small, but steady progress in dealing with the challenges I have been dealt in life. And ultimately, this is the gift of yoga, and this is what keeps us all coming back to the mat again and again.
 

Christie Hall began studying yoga in 1995 to cope with crippling back pain. Her home practice started with the book, Yoga: The Iyengar Way. She started teaching in 1997 after studying with Iyengar teacher Karin O’Bannon and she has studied as student and as teacher exclusively with Iyengar teachers, including BKS Iyengar in Colorado in 2005 and Geeta Iyengar in 2007. More of her writings can be found on her blog: www.pratipaksha.com. Her Web site is www.christieyoga.com.

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