“The most creative act you will ever undertake is the act of creating yourself.”
Most of the time when we injure ourselves, our immediate focus goes to the tragedy at hand.
In July 2011, I injured my right arm doing body work while repeating a class in Movement Re-education. I was working on a gentleman who did not exercise or drink enough water and was a regular smoker. His muscles felt like cement just before it totally sets. The teacher came around and pointed out to me that I had only got his calf muscles moving slightly, and encouraged me to keep releasing his tension with my hands.
If the gentleman had been in my office, I would have sent him home with a series of home stretches and talked to him about drinking more water, but unfortunately for me I listened to the teacher and kept going and injured my right arm badly.
I had trouble lifting my purse. It hurt to walk my dog on a leash. Digging in my garden, lifting groceries out of my car, carrying my computer bag all suddenly shifted from being easy normal every day activities to major challenges. I could not do any pushing motions whatsoever, and every upper body movement had to be thought out very carefully.
I know kinesiology to test each and every muscle in the shoulder, along with acupressure techniques for each individual muscle, and began to use these, as it was indeed a full-scale blowout of maybe 13 muscles. I received Reiki and cranio sacral therapy for my shoulder.
But even so I was somewhat dancing around the issue, knowing that I had been badly injured but hoping just time would take care of it.
Then in the fall, I decided to demonstrate just one chaturanga dandasana – a full body push up – in my evening yoga class. I felt an immediate ripping, stabbing pain. I had injured not just my muscles but also the tendons and ligaments.
Now an injury is tough for all of us, but when you use your body for a living, it becomes even more challenging.
I use my right arm for muscle testing in kinesiology, for weight training with my clients, for teaching yoga, for teaching qi gong, for doing energy work.
Although I could adjust everything I was doing, the biggest thing I was forced to adjust was my personal yoga practice and my teaching. My favourite form of yoga is vinyasa or flow yoga, and I was suddenly forced to become even more creative.
I got the message. It was time to teach yoga totally differently. Not only did I have no choice, I actually listened.
Fortunately for me, I began studying in the fall with Lillah Schwarz, founder of Lighten Up Yoga in Asheville, North Carolina. I attended a yoga retreat with Lillah and then all her seminars on yoga for healing the back. I was the first person to sign up for her 2012 yoga teacher training, which will be my sixth full-fledged yoga teacher training since I began practicing yoga at age 34.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed to have the very best mentors I could find.
I feel that one of the secrets of true success is to find the very best mentors you can find, pull up a chair, zip up your mouth and listen to every word they say.
When I was at Brown University, there was Professor Kermit Champa, who talked to me every week for 27 years until he died in 2004. He was the father I always wanted but never had. He helped me embrace my intellect and taught me how to think.
One of the issues Champa pounded away at me about was for me to find women mentors. When I was writing plays, he encouraged me to read other women playwrights. He told me that as a woman I would have to be 10 times better than all the men in my profession. He told me that it would take me longer to be recognized as being at the top of my field. He told me that unless I really studied the really great women, I would always come off sounding like a second-rate man.
He was correct on all counts, needless to say.
There is something very different about the way truly successful women carry our power. Yin energy is different from yang energy, and the women who act like men only come off as truly annoying.
I have studied with my mentor in healing, Sue Maes of Strathroy, Ontario, Canada, so much that I have taken her entire internship not just once but four times as well as virtually every other class she has ever taught. Through Sue, I have mastered a very comprehensive, totally integrated system of healing that has allowed me to make major transformations in clients who have been sick for literally decades. People ask me all the time if I have every healed anybody with (name your disease) and by now I can say , “Yes.” Thanks to Sue, I have mastered alternative healing.
And now, thanks to my injury, I am really listening to Lillah Schwarz, who has taught yoga for 30 years and has been a personal student of Mr. Iyengar himself.
At age 53 (my birthday is in March), I will have taught yoga now for 16 years. It is really great for me to find someone with an even deeper well of knowledge who embodies yoga and is a living, breathing example of how to age well as a woman and also as an accomplished teacher.
When you look for a mentor, you want to find someone who most closely embodies the qualities you yourself would like to radiate.
Lillah is 60 years old. She is the most grounded woman I know, the most fully in her body, which is saying a lot since most of us women have such a struggle with our body, not only in terms of body image but also in terms of all the changes we go through as we age. Lillah is also the most knowledgeable person I have ever studied with in any area of fitness, and that is saying a lot as I have studied many systems of exercise, therapeutic movement, postural correction and body beautiful building.
I just came back from attending the first three-day weekend of her nine month training. I was expecting to do her 200-hour training for beginning yoga students, but Lillah graciously invited me to be in her 500-hour training for more advanced teachers.
There are not many people who can get rid of the pain in your right shoulder just by changing the way you stand in your feet, knees and legs. Next to this article, you will find a photo of me after Lillah adjusted my posture.
My right shoulder is better and I can now hold down dog and shoulderstand without pain. The blessing is that I have been led to my newest mentor and hopefully will be able to embrace the qualities that Lillah best embodies – razor sharp intelligence combined with genuine warmth and caring and the ability to teach how to be radiantly healthy on all levels.