The Surprising Way Yoga Helped Me Heal
A few years back I heard a well-known teacher say to her students, “Yoga doesn’t give you super powers.” I remember furrowing my brow as she spoke these words. I disagreed then, and today. In fact, I am convinced that all of my super powers have come from yoga.
Last week, I drove to the city to teach a class. On my drive back to the country, my throat started to hurt and my body began to ache. I came home and crawled under the covers.
I woke up with a fever that night, aching all over and dripping in sweat. I remember surrendering completely and being washed in tears, allowing the sound of my crying and the wetness of my tears and saliva to flow freely, like a child does, until I felt complete, and at ease. I rolled back over and returned to sleep.
The next morning confirmed it: I had a fever over 100 and I could not swallow. I slept in and canceled my morning class.
Nothing a couple of days in bed couldn’t cure, right? Well, there was only one problem with that plan. In six hours, 16 beautiful souls were scheduled to arrive for a four-day intensive training as part of a nine-month-long yoga teacher training.
So I got up and drew a bath. I took a long soak and then sat to meditate. I relaxed my body and called upon the wisdom that lives beyond, yet in, and through, my physical form. I tapped into my nervous system and I gathered resources, stored in quiet corners of my body and directed them toward my throat, my thymus gland, and my lymph system. I unlocked the gateways I’ve learned to open and released, without name, waste and useless energy from by body. I expanded myself to what lies above and beyond my “body” as I know it and allowed grace to enter me.
I got up, feeling no better but no worse, and got dressed.
I had work to do.
A new housekeeper had to be trained, the caterer was en route, and my assistant had a list of last-minute tasks. I made a mental list of what was not critical to start the training, and I let everything but the essential tasks go.
I moved about my day, doing what had to be done while simultaneously guiding my body to, and through, the detailed process of healing. As my assistant greeted arriving students, I retreated to my private quarters. Instead of a group dinner, I sipped miso soup in my room.
I opened the evening session, relaxed, at ease, and peaceful. I had a sore throat. I was tired. I had a fever. But I was not sick. My body was healing.
I told my students that I would be titrating energy and splitting my attention between being present with them and the process of healing. But to my delight, I found I was able to be completely present, even while my body healed.
When certain parts of the body and mind aren’t available to show up, other parts—the best parts—rise to the surface.
Here is where the super powers kick in.
I drank miso and tea for two days, consuming no solid food while expending immense amounts of physical, mental, and emotional energies. I taught a full curriculum and felt strong and capable—despite having a sore throat that progressed into a hefty head cold. By Saturday evening, I had lost my voice, but my spirit was strong. I was able to fully realize that my body is an instrument through which life force flows. And I was able to titrate that energy, keeping most for healing but still sending potent bits outward to my students.
How did I do this? Two words: super powers. I’d heard about these powers from my teacher 20 years ago, but I didn’t have access to them. Slowly I learned how to make manifest the promise of yoga in my body, my mind, and my life.
You, too, have these powers: the power within you to realize that you are not your body. You can be alert, present, and peaceful AND be in a body that is actively fighting illness and infection.
Yoga teaches us to harness our energies.
Yoga teaches us that we are not, in actuality, the anamaya kosha (physical or modified food body) and that we can call upon the pranamaya kosha (energy body) that permeates our being and rides upon the breath. We can also call upon the manamaya kosha (mental and emotional energies) to nourish us and inspire us or the vijnanamaya kosha (the high and wise body, our quiet intelligence) to guide us into action and titration of energy in times of need.
Best and most of all, we can recognize that the anandamaya kosha is the part of us made up of the cosmic energy that animates all of creation. It is that energy, that power, we can cultivate, harvest, direct, and draw upon and through an ailing, healing, amazing body.
So, keep practicing your yoga. Keep meditating. Keep doing your pranayamah and looking for the ways in which your whole presence can be at ease on this planet. Keep breathing, studying yourself, and following freedom wherever you go. It’s that flow you find and follow on the mat that will lead to your inner flow and freedom off the mat.
Do these things, and the super powers of yoga will be yours.