The Healing Power of Yoga
In 1997, at the age of 23, I found myself lying on my couch with my one-month old daughter, wondering how I had gotten there. In too much pain to move, diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Lyme Disease and Spinal Meningitis, all within a three-month period, I had gone from being a seemingly healthy new mom to a very sick woman, over night. Or so I thought...
Doctors were giving me large quantities of steroids and antibiotics. This likely cured the Lyme Disease but left me even more debilitated with a new plethora of health issues. The heavens guided me to a holistic practitioner who, along with many wonderful healing remedies, suggested I try yoga. I had been a dancer, avid hiker and tennis player, but I had never tried yoga.
I went to my first class, not knowing were to begin. I often hear from my clients, “What kind of yoga should I try?” I felt the same way. The not knowing led me to the perfect, imperfect class. I went to an active class which was not appropriate for my level of health at that time. As luck would have it, the teacher that day was the owner of the studio. We chatted after class and she guided me to a Restorative Yoga class. I did not go back right away, honestly feeling angry that she felt that all I could do was “lie on the floor with props.” When I finally did return, I discovered that Restorative and Therapeutic Yoga was much much more than just lying around.
During my first class, I had an incredibly powerful healing experience. As I set myself up in Reclining Butterfly, and settled in, the tears began to flow and flow, rolling down my cheeks. I did not understand what was happening, but I intuitively understood that this was just what I needed and that this was the beginning of a special relationship between myself and my body and myself and yoga.
I kept returning to the yoga class, and over the course of time I began to recognize that much of my dis-ease and illness were caused by being over stressed from caring for an unwell parent my whole life, as well as by not knowing how to pay attention to myself and my own needs. Slowing down and settling in was helping me get in touch with myself.
I came to understand that my body needed to begin by being in very supported, longer held postures to help my nervous system come back into balance. I was stuck in flight or flight and had been for many years. I first had to balance the nervous systems with long, slow yoga and lengthening the fascia before I could begin to get stronger. I also learned how vital it is to practice these slower, more therapeutic asanas, as they are the key to balancing our daily activities. Slowing down helps to connect more deeply to the roots of feelings, experiences, sensations and emotions and thus to address them with loving kindness and begin the healing process.
Yoga was a powerful reminder and teacher that I could always come home to my breath and my body sensations at any time. The more I turned inward, observed, explored and breathed, the better I felt and the more well I became. I discovered the power to heal with special tools and a safe, supportive container.
I found restorative poses such as reclining butterfly and yin poses such as dragonfly were both calming for the mind. I now enjoy any asana that is held for several minutes, allowing for witnessing and change.
I went home from my first restorative session, still very sick but declaring, “When I am well, I will teach this to everyone!” I bought my bolster, blankets, blocks and I have never looked back.
And I did get well! Within a couple of years, I took my first yoga teacher training. I made my way into the study of therapeutic applications of practice as well as the deep study of anatomy, fascia and bodywork. I discovered that, as a teacher, I can share this sacred practice with sensitivity to all bodies, conditions and traumas. I continued on to become a certified therapeutic yoga teacher and myofacial release technician as well as continuing deep studies in sound healing with mantra, Vipassana meditation and Metta practice. I opened my own yoga studio and school in 2012, something I never dreamed I would have the health to do in 1997.
Yoga truly healed me. The practice created a safe space for me to find myself and to realize why I had gotten sick. I was no longer the victim of my illness, but a powerful partner in my recovery. I have seen firsthand how a holistic yoga practice can heal the body, mind and spirit. It is now 20 years that I have known and felt in my body that yoga is a pathway to healing. I will never stop sharing my love and gratitude for this powerful practice full of love, light and hope.
Samantha Akers is a certified Hatha yoga teacher, E-RYT 500 through Yoga Alliance, a certified therapeutic yoga teacher, C-IAYT, through IAYT and CMT. Her modalities include Kundalini Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Vipassana, Yin and Restorative Yoga. She has been leading the training of Restorative Yoga: The Subtle Art and Science since 2011 and a Yin Yoga training based in the science of stretch, a 200 hour Yoga Alliance Training and a 300 hour Advanced Yoga Therapeutics training for teachers.
To find out more about her Upcoming 300 hour YTT beginning March 2018, please visit her website www.therayogamethod.com.