What I love about yoga.

Around the time of my twenty-fourth birthday, I was doing some energetic and consciousness exploration. I had just discovered massage and bodywork and it had instantly transformed me. I found energetic, emotional release. I had always been the kind of person with emotions constantly bubbling up, the pressure holding high and sometimes experiencing bursts of dramatic explosiveness. With bodywork, I felt my body differently. When I was receiving bodywork, I related to it differently. Sometimes when I experienced emotions gracefully while receiving bodywork, I heard clarity and wisdom about the issue that was the source of the emotion. My body started to talk to me.

As part of my exploration, I bought a yoga video and a candle and began a new journey. I didn’t have the discipline to practice each morning, as recommended. In fact, I began to experience huge quantities of resistance to doing the things I knew would transform me into the woman I wanted to become. I used the candle to begin a meditation practice. I had read in a book to stare at a candle flame with eyes open for five to ten minutes. As my mind quieted, the flame stilled. When I would think of the clock, the flame would flicker. Thus began a long-term, rocky and undisciplined, relationship with meditation and yoga.

Now, as a craniosacral therapist, I have the pleasure of working with yogis. What impresses me the most about yoga is their fascial glide. In other words, their connective tissue is well-lubricated and without restriction. The layers of fascia glide against the layers of muscle. Another note of interest is that they release energy cysts easily and efficiently. Energy cysts are areas of walled-off energy. The energy is from an external source and, for some reason, our body was unable to dissipate that imposing energy. Energy cysts sometimes consist of only emotional trauma while others are a combination of physical or emotional energy. Due to these differences, yogi’s craniosacral therapy sessions tend to move more rapidly and with slightly greater results than non-yogis.

One of my great mysteries in life is how yoga works. Recently, I’ve learned much about the physical poses, or asanas, of yoga and how they affect us physically. Yet there are two other components that bewilder me, the energy and the awareness. If you’re not familiar with yoga, it originated in northern India over 5,000 years ago and is first recorded in the Vedas, a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Through yoga, many of us learn the energy system taught in the Vedas, the chakras. The chakra system is useful in learning our own energy awareness and our interactions with the energy of others. My question is whether the asanas affect the chakras more intentionally than other forms of exercise might, explaining why so much energy is released easily by yogis.

The witness, or the phenomenon of awareness, may be explained through meditation more than the asanas but I’m not sure. Over the thousands of years, Saints, gurus, and mystics have developed, sharing their wisdom and teachings with us. Whether it is through teachings or the poses, somehow, while practicing yoga, people develop a higher consciousness. It may be a sense of experiencing our minds differently. We may become more aware of what we are thinking and have a new source of awareness that can guide our thoughts back to the present. How does that work?

I had lunch with a friend today and was discussing this and she reminded me that anecdotal medicine is still good medicine. If it works, what does the why really matter? She emphasized that our current culture spends an enormous amount of time and energy rationalizing scientifically how things “work.” Craniosacral therapy is very much an anecdotal treatment, despite its scientific evidence. It works miraculously well for some and not so much for others.

In regards to the physical, yoga has some faults. To simplify, joints are made of connective tissue, cartilage, and fluid and those tissues must remain lubricated. The muscles around the joint must also be strong enough to move the joint without allowing the weight or force to “sink” into the joint. Some yogis have joint damage from asanas being attained and held through flexibility rather than strength. Yoga can also cause repetitive stress injuries, especially if the joints aren’t being well-maintained. Many yoga poses, or asanas, cause compression of the vertebrae of the neck and lower back. Some poses are known to cause serious shoulder injuries. Headstands, which shouldn’t be done at all, caused neck injuries.

When I was ill several years ago, I had become more sedentary than I was accustomed, was on medications, and hadn’t received any bodywork in a while. I developed tendonitis in my right Achilles. The podiatrist told me I would never be able to walk barefoot and pain-free. I returned to craniosacral therapy and yoga. I began a disciplined, once a week, practice at a local studio. I developed an increase in my intermittent low back pain. The teacher would tell me not to let my belly fall while in Cow Pose and I would realize I didn’t have the abdominal strength to do as she meant but the yoga class did not provide the strengthening I needed.

Soon thereafter, I discovered a new studio, a new teacher, and a new method of yoga. LYT yoga (pronounced “lit”) has been developed by a physical therapist to make yoga physiologically sound. Strength is the foundation of the pose, not flexibility. I think because of all the fascial gliding, I have not tightened or lost any flexibility but, rather, it has improved while I have strengthened. I’ve been practicing LYT yoga with Motivity with Joi once or twice a week for about a year. The changes to my body are profound. I’m still experiencing the magic of the physical, emotional and energetic nurturing I feel with every practice. LYT yoga includes teachings about how we “spill” energy through our weakness. This teaching has been very effective in improving my belly strength and control.

For videos of Joi’s teachings, check out her YouTube Channel.