I calculated the other day that I’ve sat in on 4000+ medical appointments with my clients over the years. These appointments could have been with surgeons, physiotherapists, hand therapists, psychiatrist, psychologists, chiropractors… name a medical consultant / allied health practitioner, and it’s 99.9% guaranteed I’ve worked with them in some form or another. So whilst my personal background is in Psychology, as you can imagine, my knowledge of the human body from a physical perspective has certainly developed over the years.
Whilst my work was primarily targeted at the physical body, yoga, as we know, is not, all about the physical body. The philosophy of yoga speaks of both the physical and nonphysical components (for like of a better word) of the practice and how they come together along this journey of deepening self awareness. Much of society can relate more so to the physical aspect of yoga as we can literally feel / experience this through our movements - hence we become dependent on physiotherapists, chiropractors, doctors etc to fix the problem. We want to magic cure and we want it now! I get it. If we feel pain in our lower back, believe me, it is very real. If we stub our toe or get a paper cut, it hurts! So it makes sense that we look for solutions that will offer immediate relief.
The non-physical aspects, however, like Prana, can be a little more challenging for people to grasp. For one, it can all seem a little weird and new age (however I can assure it's not), and again coming back to the quick fix solution, we want any physical pain or tension to go immediately. We've become quite expectant of quick fix solutions in a society that promises everything however tends to offer little by way of actual lasting change. This isn't our fault, I might add. Our senses are overwhelmed by relentless external distractions, particularly due to the rapid rate of technological advances. Our patience to open a web browser, for example, has gone from minutes to now seconds. As a new business owner who is slowly trying to understand the process of marketing (far out… this is scary stuff itself), I’ve learned we have an attention span of 2 seconds when opening a website or flicking through a magazine. If we don’t see what we’re looking for within 2 seconds, we move on. 2 seconds!!!! With that knowledge, who the hell has time to aim for enlightenment.... This may take a lifetime and still we may not succeed. With an inbox of 100's of emails or constant notifications from social media sites, seriously... Don't worry, I get it!
What I’m trying to highlight is how impatient we are becoming, and this is of no fault of our own, but moreso a natural response to the pace that our world is changing. We need to keep up and so we must adapt. We struggle to sit for 5 minutes with our eyes closed nowadays let alone plan for enlightenment.
However, in saying that, when it comes to working with our body, we have no choice but to be patient. Whilst technology is advancing at the speed of light, our bodies are still responding as though we are cave men/women, living out in the wild and having to hunt/gather for every meal. It responds to stress by dumping adrenaline and contracting all the muscles in preparation for fighting or fleeing from a predatory animal. It has no idea your stress response came as a result of your boss calling you into their office to discuss performance. Now, whilst some of those bosses really do emulate the characteristics of a predatory animal (believe me, I’ve had a few of those of the years), at the end of the day, our body is in no way under any threat. The job, maybe, but not our survival.
So in saying that, it stands to reason that in order for our body and our mind to relax, we must learn how to slow down, how to respond consciously to external stimuli that makes us uncomfortable rather than panic. We hold so much pent up stress and anxiety which can make stretching very uncomfortable to begin with. Our bodies have become so use to preparing to fight or flee, that we are ‘wired’ all the time. This is not a healthy or sustainable way of living. This is where yoga is so key. And I refer to yoga because it is through my experience over the years where I have personally witnessed huge transformations - not so much with the quick 'under the knife' alternative.
What we need to do, is trust that when we slow down - our breath, our movement, our thoughts - our body will naturally start to release that pent up tension. Slowly it will learn there are no tigers chasing us and that the tightness is unnecessary; that it is safe to release. Through this process, not only will flexibility improve, but this is how/where stillness of mind develops. However - this only comes with patience. We must take the time to connect with our body and allow it the space it needs to let go. And all this can still be achieved without feeling as though a secluded life in a cave in the Himalayas is the only way. I assure you, it's not.
So with that said, if you’re new to yoga or feel you’re not getting the results you seek - ask yourself; “Am I truly giving myself the time to be still? Am I really practicing patience or am I going to class to get a quick fix?” The latter will never result in lasting change, however an attitude that embraces patience will see beautiful physical and nonphysical results. Both on and off the mat.
I would love to hear from you if this is something you resonate with. Your story could really help someone else who might be struggling in the same way you have - so please don’t hesitate to share.
Sending huge hugs and love,