The Ascension of my Messy Mind

Name: Tammi Truax
Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA
Occupation: Historical Interpreter, Writer & Mother

Photo by Flickr user h.koppdelaney.

Photo by Flickr user h.koppdelaney.

I’ve been a student of yoga
for five full years now,
and my daily practice
is to me, like breakfast.

Truly drawn to its healing
of mind, body and soul, all of me
has come a long way, sometimes
I even say – yoga saved me.

Physically, I am advanced.
My dog has never been so down,
my warrior so strong and solid,
and recently I stood upon my crown.

Sadly, I remain an amateur
because I cannot quiet
what master yogis call
“the monkey mind.”

I’ve worked at meditation,
the very purpose of the postures,
but in this area I don’t progress.
Mine the noisiest mind in the universe.

I try to meditate,
but I tend to ruminate.
I really want to meditate,
but I’ll secretly start to speculate…

about work I need to do, or
some guy I’d like to agitate.
Even with extreme effort,
I always deviate.

I focus on the breath, but soon
my monkeys start swinging
and away I go – – chasing
bananas instead of bliss.

My third eye wanders,
takes off on a walk about really,
sneaky and insolent,
my mind has a mind of its own.

Feeling like a freakish failure,
whose essence is clearly a mess, I have
vowed to conquer my wicked westernness,
believing it the way to true peace.

But it occurred to me early today
during my concentration’s dissolution,
that my clamorous cranium
isn’t full of pollution … but of poetry.

So with the acceptance
of the Buddha,
I acknowledge that
I will never be a
quiet and contemplative monk,
but I will always be
a very flexible poet.

I am That.

Namaste.

Tammy TrauxTammi Truax writes freelance from a bungalow not quite by the sea in Portsmouth, NH, where she also raises organic vegetables, flowers and children, with limited success. She also works as a historical interpreter at a local living history museum. When not reading and writing, she can be found in a local coffee shop, yoga studio, or on a hiking trail. Say “hi” if you see her.

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My Yoga Story

Name: Elizabeth Anna
Location: Southern California, USA
Occupation: Olympic Gymnast & Medalist, Actress, Artist, Author, Entrepreneur and Yogi

I have been an athlete for much of this life, having trained in dance and gymnastics. Quite naturally, from the moment I heard of yoga, I gravitated towards it as a new form of exercise. My initial understanding of yoga was that it was a combination of stretching, balancing and holding poses, all of which I knew to provide a wonderful core work out.

I attended my first yoga class; It was a Hatha class, and there were five other people in attendance, not including me and my friend. We began with the basics and slowly moved through different asanas. As we did so, I noticed my impatience with the slow pace and the seemingly basic nature of the poses. The instructor repeatedly chose to use me as an example of the improper way to do the poses, stopping the class so that everybody could observe me doing the pose improperly. I truly never thought at the time that I could, after 20 years of training in dance and gymnastics, be used as an example of how not to do a basic downward facing dog, yet there it was. At the time I didn’t understand the finite adjustment required within the form in order for the energy and balance to flow freely within the pose.

My first experience with yoga left me feeling picked on, frustrated, annoyed and fairly stretched out. The next years saw me trying out the different disciplines of yoga, all-the-while seeking to experience the harmony and lasting inner peace that I knew could be experienced during the practice of yoga…but not yet knowing how to make it so.

Through one conscious, empowered choice, I “woke up” and life changed. I stopped smoking after many years, with no side effects, no cravings, and no desire to go back. And I realized that “Consciousness” made it so. I read a book, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, by Allen Carr, and in the book the author asked me to pay attention to my breath. In other words, be conscious of my breath as I took a drag off my cigarette, be conscious of my thought and feeling as I breathed in the smoke and blew it out, be conscious of my thought before reaching to grab another one. All of the conscious attention on myself was causing me to smoke less and less as I read the book, until by the end I threw away the remaining pack. From that moment on I never desired another cigarette again. Consciousness is Supreme Presence, the calm poise of thought, feeling and action in any given moment. Destructive behavior of any sort shall not thrive where consciousness resides.

“Freedom of Peace”- artwork by Elizabeth Anna

I began meditating twice a day, half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the evening, ever conscious of the movement of my breath in and out. The inner peace and moments of harmony began to expand beyond my morning meditation session and well into the rest of my day. Bringing my conscious attention to the movement of my breath throughout the day brought the harmony of my meditation into every aspect of every day. I was practicing the living meditation.

It was around this time that I was introduced to Anusara Yoga by way of John Friend, the originator of Anusara. The understanding of the inter-connectivity of life and our eternal interaction with the Divine flowed through the very practice of Anusara Yoga. Anusara Yoga perfectly matched my new understanding and my evolving consciousness.

Yoga, the conscious breath, is the vehicle by which the light of God flows in, through us and then back out unto It’s Wondrous Self. The asanas help to gently guide this energy to specific areas of focus to purify, bless, heal and renew the body in that particular area.

What was first a stretching workout, that any gymnast or dancer could do, evolved into a dance with God, a celebration of unity. Now, I practice breathing through different yoga asanas every day, whether it be for ten minutes or 90 minutes. The practice of yoga allows me the experience of resting in the balance point between outer and the inner, the point from which all creation takes place, that place of total awareness, harmony experienced. I have found myself quite naturally incorporating simple asanas, and conscious breathing exercises at different points throughout the day, helping me to re-center, after or while working at the computer, or after listening to someone express anger or sorrow.

The conscious attention to the breath, applied throughout the day, whether walking, stretching, working, or sitting, is “The Living Yoga” experienced; the eternal dance with the Divine, Great Spirit, the Mighty I Am Presence, God. And it is from this glorious place of presence, of conscious awareness that life is meant to be lived. Namaste.

Elizabeth Anna is an Olympic Gymnast and Medalist, an actress, artist, author, entrepreneur and yogi. She lives with her husband and creative partner, Jacob Daniel, in southern California where they  produce music, create art and are currently writing a series of books for both adults & children alike. Two of the short stories can be found on their website and downloaded through the Kindle and Nook platforms. To check out their Wisdom Blog, downloadable art, short stories and music visit: www.OneDropWithinTheWave.com

Follow on Twitter @: EOTL_BettyOkino
Like the Band page on Facebook @:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/EOTL/310124985667090?ref=ts&sk=app_129982580378550

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The Living Yoga

Name: Jacob Daniel
Location: Southern California, USA
Occupation: DJ, Producer, Artist, Author, Entrepreneur and Yogi

Artwork by Jacob Daniel.

Allowing my own personal yoga to bubble up from within, collect in my heart and then to consciously guide it, as to how it may express through my every thought, word and action – is a much different perspective of yoga than I had when I unknowingly stepped upon this path. My first perspective, which was shared widely among western men, was that yoga was basically for sissies who couldn’t or chose not to play competitive contact sports. My first class was attended in an attempt to win the favor of someone, and had nothing to do with breath, balance, calm or deep connection with the Divine within.

As I stretched fairly easily through all of the poses (I was playing collegiate soccer at the time and was in fair shape), I was marveling at the facts that not only did these people meet in a room to stretch together multiple times a week, they were paying to stretch together. It is safe to say that I did not instantly awaken to the gift hidden within yoga.

Years passed. Yoga enters and leaves, enters and leaves. Each time a little more presence is brought to the experience, as thankfully the difficulty in actually holding some of the more advanced poses offered a degree of challenge which required focus. During those handful of experiences, which happened over about 10 years or so, yoga became less associated with stretching and became a workout, something physically demanding and strangely relaxing.

Years passed. Meditation enters my life on a wave, and I am given an understanding that there is stillness contained within yoga, it is that calm, golden core of energy that I had tapped into while playing soccer when “in the zone.” I understood why it felt so relaxing, even as I moved. As soon as I was keenly and acutely present, the stillness from within would begin to flow out and seemingly guide my movements through an outer hush. During this time yoga evolved from a workout and something physical into something mental which allowed for becoming calm and centered, each time sensing the power that rested within the deep calm.

Next came my introduction to Anusara Yoga and a reinforcement of a major change that was occurring in my life, as my understanding of God was changing and expanding. The underlying philosophy and practice of Anusara is connecting with the Divine within us, and the idea of being an extension of the very energy that is God, was rapidly expanding within my consciousness. I had recently had an experience that gave me great insight into this seemingly invisible connection to the Divine.

Artwork by Jacob Daniel.

While sitting with my love, Elizabeth, I was describing a new understanding that I was given about our connection with God. I held in my hand a large rough-cut crystal. Science has discovered that crystals have a consciousness operating within them, which causes them to grow as they do. Knowing this, I said, “…then that means that if we break a little chunk of this crystal off, we will have a little piece of the Original Consciousness, contained within the little piece of crystal. The consciousness within the little crystal is forever linked to the Original big consciousness within the big piece of crystal, by the fact that it came from there. It is forever linked to it’s Source.”

Understanding what this meant caused me to realize my connection with God, and how it was unbreakable. With this blockage in understanding cleared away, a sharp sensation like a needle pierced through my side. I instantly grabbed it as if I had been shot, yet found to my surprise that it was not painful, it simply felt as if something had been released, as if a cork was removed to allow water to flow. I laughed and cried for an hour or so, feeling a heightened vibration within.

After focusing upon this connection with God with greater regularity, it became a simple obvious knowing that was always in the back of my mind, “I have an unbreakable connection to God.”

My love and I continued our practice with a few Anusara CDs. In between sessions I would find myself stretching more and more, and breathing consciously as I stretched. I was moving based on what I felt in my body. I was allowing my body to guide me into each asana. My own personal yoga was coming from within.

Then one day I asked myself, because I had recently posed the same question to another, “What is yoga to you?” It wasn’t until I asked the question that the answer came and gave me a deeper understanding. The natural expansion of yoga in one’s life, or any spiritual practice for that matter, is to completely fill one’s life with the practice. I had never thought about it, yoga “completely” filling my life. In an attempt to understand what that could mean my imagination produced an image of what life would be like “filled” with yoga, every breath conscious, every movement deliberate. Then I realized, yoga has been the physical preparation for existing permanently within the awakened or enlightened state of being, being consciously aware always of our connection with and the presence of God, union with the Divine. Shortly after this the “Living Yoga” and the “Heart Breath” came forth.

Breathe through the heart as often as possible to experience peace and true happiness and may all paths be showered with blessings and wondrous awakening.

Jacob Daniel is a DJ, producer, artist, author, entrepreneur and yogi. He lives with his wife and creative partner, Elizabeth Anna, in Southern California where they produce music, create art and are currently writing a series of books for both adults & children alike. Two of the short stories and an essay can be found on their website and downloaded through the Kindle and Nook platforms. To check out their Wisdom Blog,  downloadable art, short stories and music visit: www.OneDropWithinTheWave.com.

Follow on Instagram @: EOTL_ElizabethAnna
Like the Band page on Facebook @:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/EOTL/310124985667090?ref=ts&sk=app_129982580378550

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.

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Lead Me

Name: Nicole Chemi
Location: Haverton, Pennsylvania, USA
Occupation: yogini, mom, brain aneurysm survivor

Asatoma Sat Gamaya
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityorma Anritam Gamaya

Lead me from the unreal to the Real
Lead me from the darkness to the Light
Lead me from the temporary to the Eternal

~Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Photo by Flickr User cdrummbks.

Without fail, every time I read the Upanishads I cry. It’s not a sad cry or a mad cry, but a joyous heart-felt recognition cry. When I hold my copy of the translation by Eknath Easwaran, it feels like I am touching truth with my very own human hands. Throughout my almost 16 years of yoga practice, I can always bring my mind back into balance by simply opening my well-worn copy and reading whatever passage that catches my eye. To me, the most beautiful words ever written come from the Kena Upanishad, “The Self is the ear of the ear, the eye of the eye, the mind of the mind, the word of words, and the life of life.”

Each year when we cover The Upanishads in our 200 hr. Yoga Teacher Training course, I read the Kena, out loud to the class. And each year with a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face, I get through to the end, my heart filled with joy. I am never sure how many of the trainees get it, how many of them think I am insane, or how many of them feel the same tenderness in the center of their chests. But each year, with great anticipation, I read and cry and feel intense love for all creatures.

Early on in my yoga studies, I found it extremely challenging to sit in a meditative posture and try to concentrate my mind. I know this is common for many beginners, however I have always been the model student, perfectionism plus. So try and try I did and the more and more frustrated I became. With years of practice and finally putting into practice the concept of detachment, I started to make some progress in meditation. After asana and relaxation, I would sit still; sometimes observing my breath and sometimes just watching my body and its stillness. I can remember when meditation switched from being a chore to being something I looked forward to; a time for me to stop doing, moving, being, trying to attain, trying to teach, trying to fulfill someone’s needs turned into a time to witness, observe, watch and be quiet.

Photo by Flickr User Honeyquilts.

I attended a wonderful workshop on meditation at The Himalayan Institute, and Rolf Sovik gave very clear concise instruction that I followed for years. Meditate on your breath or utilize the So-Hum universal mantra. I still teach this to our students today. I am not sure when or how this changed but at some point in the last couple of years, I began to meditate on a mantra, for me a prayer from the Upanishads. “Oh Lord, lead me from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to the Light from death to Eternal Life.”

Sometimes, spontaneously, it would run through my mind in Sanskrit; at times driving in the car, waiting somewhere in line, waiting for students to arrive, waiting for the school bus, just me and the mantra. Communicating with the Divine- “Please lead me from all this suffering to what is Real. Make me a true yogini, help me practice karma yoga, free me from these bonds I have created for myself, rescue me from this negative thinking, free me from the past, teach me how to live in the present moment, make me a better mother, make me a better teacher, show me love, take away my loneliness, relieve my sadness. Please.”

Friday, October 14, 2011, New York City

7pm. An evening with Thich Nhat Hahn, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and enlightened being. The beloved teacher and prolific writer floats out onto the stage and takes his place on a cushion in lotus posture. His smile lights up the room and warms my heart. I immediately begin to tear up as he speaks. One of the very first things he asks us to do…“Close your eyes and draw your attention to your eyes. Take the time to consider your sight. Be grateful for this gift and be thankful for something you take for granted every day.” “Now,” he instructs, “Open your eyes.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011, Springfield, PA

Image by Flickr User Pierre Willemin.

For the past two weeks I have been experiencing pain in my left eye. As a 43-year old yoga teacher, I am used to the occasional ache or pain. No big deal. It will go away on its own. I have recently moved and sold the home where my ex-husband and I lived when we moved to Pennsylvania. I was in that home as a single mom for 10 years, and with the poor economy and the 30 minute commute I had driven to the yoga center for the past 7 years, it was time to move on. One of my dear friends, a student at the yoga center, suggested that I get the eye looked at. At the ophthalmologist’s office I explain that it feels as though I have been punched in the eyeball. He examines me and tells me that there is nothing wrong and it is probably a headache. However, with the other odd symptoms I have mentioned to him, he suggests seeing a neurologist, just to be sure.

Thursday, November 3, 2011, Bryn Mawr, PA

Meet the neurologist. Explain symptoms: Headaches, dizziness, fatigue, pain in the left eye, vision issues, “oh yeah, and the time I was blind in my left eye for about 20 minutes following a massage.”

Next Day

MRI. Brain. Neck. With and without contrast. Very loud banging in that tube- but I was calm content and relaxed. Thank you yoga practice.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011, 1:30 pm, Bryn Mawr, PA

“99% of the times we do this test we find nothing, however, you have an aneurysm in your Internal Carotid Artery behind your left eye. Here is the number of a neurosurgeon in Philadelphia. You should call as soon as possible and get an appointment.”

15 minutes later, home, Google, bad news.

“A ruptured aneurysm is a medical emergency. In about 30 percent of cases, ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal.” Mayo Clinic.

Thankfully I have an aneurysm that is intact. It is on the large side, 7mm. I call University of Pennsylvania Hospital and Thomas Jefferson Hospital. Both hospitals are 30 minutes away and have some of the best doctors in the country. I am so lucky to live here. Two appointments scheduled- Monday and Wednesday.

Bright and early Monday morning, Philadelphia, PA

I meet my surgeon- Dr. Michelle Smith, young, petite, pretty; soft-spoken but smart and confident. She explains to me and my boyfriend, Joe, that this is serious. I am young and very healthy. I should live a long life, however if this aneurysm were to rupture, my chances of fulfilling that destiny are slim to none. One thing I have neglected to reveal; my daughter Meredith is my whole life. As a child from a dysfunctional family, the one thing that meant the most to me was to have a family of my own. I would do better. I would right the wrongs. I would always put my daughter first. Her dad left when she was just over a year old. Since that day, she has been my world, my best friend, and my reason for waking up each day. Sometimes, of course, this is great for Meredith. And, of course, sometimes this hurts her deeply.

Monday, November 21, 2011, Philadelphia, PA

Photo by Flickr User Vectorportal.

Let me speed this up for you. Angiogram= catheter into femoral artery, past the heart, into the neck. Dye injected into the brain. Pictures, pictures, pictures. “Nicole, hold your breath!” more pictures. “You did great!” By the way, having an angiogram really sucks. They put you into a drugged out state where you are half-asleep and half-awake to get through the ordeal. In recovery, the drugs wear off quickly and you have to keep the leg, where they inserted the cath, still- Completely still, for six hours. Thank you yoga practice. I have had three angiograms since this original one. How do normal non-yogis deal with the pain and discomfort?

While I’m still groggy and in a drug-induced fog, the doctor says to me, “I am so sorry but we cannot treat this with coiling (a semi-noninvasive procedure done with catheterization). You will need to have a clipping and craniotomy.“

“NO. No. NO WAY Joe. I am not ready for that. I am not doing that. I am not telling Meredith that I need brain surgery. No way. What the hell? I am not doing that.”

“It’s fine. Only like 1% of these things rupture anyway.”

In my mind I’m thinking, “GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE. Are you kidding me? I am the healthiest person I know. This is not happening. What a cruel joke.”

Friday, December 16, 2011, Philadelphia, PA

Image by Flickr User Hey Paul Studios.

Today I underwent an 11-hour brain surgery to clip off the pesky brain aneurysm with a titanium clothes pin. My oldest brother was there from Northern New Jersey. My mom flew in from South Carolina. My boyfriend (of 10 years) was there. My daughter was cared for by her dad. That morning, I arrived at the hospital in my favorite royal blue sweatpants, an East Eagle Yoga tee shirt, and a comfy, over-sized sweater. We went through admissions, I smiled and laughed and told my mom, bro and partner that I loved them. I took a moment to experience who I was before, as I had no idea what would become of me after.

I don’t remember much. I know my student and friend, Kate, came to bring food to my family and when I saw her I made some idiotic remark calling her my baby girl and blurting out the year of my birth “1968!” The next thing I can remember is being in ICU. I met with the on-call nurse who was immediately my enemy asking the name of my husband. “I don’t have one of those. B*tch!” I think to myself.

I was in a stupor. 50+ staples in my shaved head. Hospital gown. PAIN. LOTS of pain. I shook uncontrollably. I was inconsolable. I cried. I hyperventilated. I was pissed off. Majorly pissed off. I have been under the care of a psychiatrist for many years, and for years I have been on medication for my struggles with anxiety and depression. My anxiety meds have been increased over the years, however they had not been updated in the “Penn Medicine” online charts, and now these doctors were giving me a significantly lower dose than what I needed. All of a sudden, I am a drug crazed fool. My mother is flipping out when I explain to the on-call docs that I need more ativan. “You people have been giving me .5 mg per day when I regularly take 4x that amount.”

Within 45 minutes of my morphine dose, I am screaming, shaking, convulsing. When my mom and boyfriend are not in the room with me in ICU, I press the call button over and over and over. Clearly I pissed the nurse off. She could care less. I start to cry and weep and plead…“Someone help me please. I need to use the bedpan. Help me.” For a second I realize how pathetic I am.

I haven’t eaten in days. A sick vain side of me thinks that maybe I will lose a few pounds. Seriously? Am I that shallow? This ridiculous thought quickly fades and all I want to know is when can I get out of this bed? Mom shows up with Joe. They feign happiness, excitement, positive thoughts. All I can think about is my daughter. I call her on the cell phone and try to be as upbeat and happy as possible. When I ask her today, she doesn’t remember how she felt or what she said. My scariest concern wasn’t all I made it out to be. Guess a mother’s love and fear are stronger than what is real.

The day I leave the hospital is one of the scariest moments in my life. “Who am I? I am not my body. I am not my mind. I am not my relationships, my job, my home. I am not a liberal, I am not a vegetarian, I am not a yogi, a parent, a girlfriend, a sister, a daughter. I am not my bank account. I am not an animal rescuer. I am not a yoga teacher. I am not a damaged and treated brain.”

“The Self is the ear of the ear, the eye of the eye, the mind of the mind, the word of words and the life of life. Rising above the senses and the mind and renouncing separate existence, the wise realize the deathless Self.”

Thankfully today: Sunday, August 5, 2012

Photo by Flickr User Kelly Loves Whales.

I have learned so much. What I wished for came true. My prayers were answered. Obviously not the way I had expected them to, but isn’t that life? I asked the Lord of life, the Lord of love to transform this broken, sad and lonely girl into a yogini and my prayers were answered. As I have read over and over in the yogic scriptures: The two things that are required for success in yoga are practice (lots of it) and detachment. I am still learning. I am still a beginner. However, I recognize that what I asked for was provided; maybe not in the way I had expected or preferred, but in the way that would count. My left eye sucks. Maybe 60% vision. I get tired very often. I am hyper-sensitive to sensory input. I am forever an HSP- (Hyper Sensitive Person). Oh, well, me and my quirks! Sounds crazy, I realize, but I am grateful for this experience. For me. For my daughter. For my students. For my partner. For my mom and my brother Bobby, and last but not least for my pups of the heart, sweet Blue and charming Linus.

Nicole Chemi took her first yoga class at the age of eleven while attending a performing arts camp. After her daughter was born in 1997, she came back to yoga as a way to center herself and reduce the stress of being a first time mom. In order to deepen her yoga practice and study of yoga philosophy, In 2001, Nicole studied and was trained as a teacher at Yogalife Institute, an affiliate of The Yoga Institute in Mumbai, India. She is currently enrolled in an advanced course for teachers at The Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. 

Nicole has taught classes on yoga postures, meditation, and philosophy for adults and children at all levels of practice. In 2005, Nicole was able to fufill her dream of opening her own yoga center, East Eagle Yoga, in Havertown, Pennsylvania, with her best friend and partner, Joe Finnerty. As a writer, Nicole has been published nationally in Lillipoh Magazine and was a regular columnist in Yoga Living Magazine. She has been featured in Philadelphia Magazine. Nicole is a member of The Yoga Alliance and The Himalyan Institute Teacher’s Association.

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A Bhakti Story

Name: Margaret Bacon
Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Occupation: Writer

Photo by Flickr user Nick.Allen.

Walking to yoga one morning, I was dismayed to see the sidewalk being torn up, right outside the building I was entering. “This is nice for yoga,” I commented to my friend, Takako, over the jarring drone of a jackhammer.

Inside the studio where Angela Pashayan was leading a class in the Yoga of Devotion, the jackhammer penetrated the walls, rising from the street below. It might have been dulled from its two story climb, but it was still loud enough to be annoying and Angela had to raise her voice as she led us into meditation.

There was no ignoring the aural distraction outside the window, yet remarkably, without yelling, Angela was able to speak loudly enough for us to hear her. Instead of competing with the grating noise from below, she encouraged us to use the vibrating sound as a tool of focus; to break up stuck thoughts in our minds and loosen tightness in our bodies.

As we progressed into asanas, Angela guided us to “jackhammer” away resistance. The imagery was empowering as I imagined petty worries turning into dust. I felt the stiffness in my right shoulder being chipped away, dissolved to bits like the cement on the sidewalk, the ache eased and no longer of service. In warrior, the jackhammer’s steady plummeting actually helped me sink into the powerful pose, drawing strength from the incessant hum, breaking through my own self-defensiveness.

When we reached savasana, the jackhammer suddenly stopped, as if in reverence to the dead of corpse pose. Tears of release flowed as I lay on my back through meditation. Like the old, stuck cement, I was able to break up and throw out old aches and pains, resentments and frustrations that needed to go. Everyone agreed that the class had indeed been a powerfully moving one.

Photo by Jason Wyman.

In her classes, Angela often talks us through affirmations in the unique Bhakti practice that she has developed. She encourages us to set our intention in prayer pose, to acknowledge our past when looking back in twists, expressing gratitude for where we’ve been. Reaching up and out in warrior, she guides us to look forward and reach out for our intention, to see it and realize it at our fingertips. And, just as the jackhammer was a tool to tear up the sidewalk, that day Angela used it as an instrument in her teaching. What would normally have been an annoyance in any yoga class became the sound of healing. In parting, Angela encouraged us to use all external distractions as implements in our yoga practice.

One of the things I most appreciate about Angela’s classes is the imagery and visualizations she presents which work as affirmations for me. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and had to have a procedure to remove and prevent further artery blockage. I saw Angela soon after I got out of the hospital, tired, bruised and a bit depressed. I also felt somewhat defeated that, as an advocate of holistic health and a physically active vegetarian, I had to undergo such drastic treatment. I was also angered by all the medications I’d been prescribed. In addition, I wondered if, despite all my efforts to live a healthy lifestyle, the arteries would again become clogged. My cardiologist had explained that my condition was hereditary and that my liver produced excessive cholesterol.

Angela gave me a CD of “healing music” and visualization. Knowing my background in swimming she told me to visualize myself swimming through my arteries to keep them clear. Hers was some of the best medicine I took. I continue to listen to the CD, I continue to use the visualization and I continue to practice yoga. I’m feeling very well these days and have been able to cut back on medication. My cardiologist told me that if all her patients practiced yoga she’d be out of business.

The metaphor of the jackhammer from that class has stayed with me for a long time, just as yoga stays with me long after I have come out of an asana. For that reason I am devoted to the Yoga of Devotion.

Angela Pashayan is the founder of Yoga of Devotion, a philanthropic yoga organization serving the needs of children worldwide. For more information, please visit www.yogaofdevotion.org.

Margaret Bacon is a writer of Okinawan and Anglo (English, Irish, Scottish and French) ancestry. She was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up mostly in Southern California with bouts in Florida, Mississippi, Singapore, England and Scotland. San Francisco has been her home longer than anywhere else and she continues to reside near Ocean Beach with her family which includes four cats. In addition to writing, Margaret is the co-founder of 14 Black Poppies, a community arts and wellness organization. She also knits, practices yoga, works with clay, and tries to garden in the fog. You can reach Margaret at margaret@14blackpoppies.com.

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“Seeing” Through Yoga

Name: Krissie Jane Penney
Location: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Occupation: Massage Therapist, Reflexologist,Yoga Instructor & Owner of “The Lila Centre”

Photo by Flickr user Mokarta Graphic.

I have no other way to describe my childhood or teenage years other than to use the word “lost.” I was brought up in a regular family, in a regular neighborhood and never had to go without. Even at a very young age I did know how fortunate I was in comparison to so many other children. But despite that, I was sad….

About what? Good question. I didn’t like how people were mean to other people, how money seemed to drive people to evil, how people were judged on their appearance, or how everyone around me seemed to accept all of this in almost a defeated way. Why wouldn’t anyone change these things? It seemed so obvious to me what was wrong, how could others not see it?

I can remember the moment I was told who God was. Church was not a part of my childhood nor was religion. My father had lost his father at a very young age and didn’t feel we needed to attend church as he was so angry with religion and God. I was taken to a church by some friends, to a group called awanas, an evening play group where they educated children about the Christian religion. I could not believe what I was being told. These people seemed to have all the answers, at the tender age of eight. But the more I was told the less I believed it. I mean, really – There was a giant wooden boat with every animal on it and everyone in China was going to go to hell? It didn’t seem right at all. So, I gave up on the notion and decided that all religions were some sort of brainwashing cult. In my eyes, they passed judgment on others for no reason, just like the government or teachers in school. I wanted no part of that.

As a teenager I sunk deeper into depression. I suffered from anorexia nervosa, got into drugs and excessive drinking, and even had a couple of suicide attempts. Nothing mattered: not my future, not my parents, nor my friends. I moved out of my parents’ house at age 17 and into a drug house with my at-the-time boyfriend. He was verbally and physically abusive towards me. Every day was a big party. And being in such a state all the time really made me forget what kind of world I was living in. At the time I really thought I was happy.

Photo by Flickr User Vladimir I U L.

One night we were at a friend’s house at a party. I had been drinking and we all decided to indulge in some substance abuse. I had too much. I remember sitting on a couch and thinking, “This is bad, so bad. I think I am actually going to die.” The next thing I knew I was not in my body at all but I was above everyone in the room, looking down. I looked fine, but what was going on? I had this overwhelming feeling that life was a game. And I was losing terribly. The rest of the evening was a blur. I woke up the next morning scared to death. After that moment I just knew there was something more than this world. But what? I mean religion seemed so unbelievable. So I decided to follow the “Krissie” religion. I believed in God but not religion. I didn’t want to be a loser in this giant game. I needed to make myself a better person.

I quit the drugs, which was unbelievably easy after my experience. I applied for university and off I went to the nation’s capital. I was going to show people what I had seen, I was going to open the eyes of the world and help to change it, through journalism and television. People love TV!! I really did love University. I loved Ottawa. Coming from a small town it was such a change and it was so exciting. I did very well in the year at Ottawa University.

One morning I was in lecture hall and I found it a bit difficult to focus on the board. I had to move up to the front. “Bizarre!” I thought to myself. I called my mother and asked her to make an appointment with the eye doctor, as I obviously needed some glasses. I came home and off to the doctor I went. She flicked through the lenses asking, “Better or worse?” over and over. “My goodness this is taking some time,” I thought to myself. She left the room and asked if it would be ok to look into the back of my eyes. She took her light and looked, then left the room again. “Just give me a prescription so I can go home,” I impatiently thought to myself. She returned and asked simply, “Do you have a valid driver’s license?” “Yes,” I replied. “I’m sorry. I’m contacting the DMV and having it suspended immediately. And, I’m sending you to a specialist in the city. There is something wrong.” Shock waves ran through me. I didn’t know what else to even say other than “Ok.”

I saw the specialist not long after. I am legally blind, I will never drive again, never see the overheads again…. So I dropped out of university. I couldn’t hack it without being able to take my notes or see the TV in class. “It’s called Starguardts, very rare, only three people in the province have it. There is no known cure,” the specialist had explained.

Every possible negative feeling ran through me. HATE. I hated everything and everyone. And WHY? Why me? I was trying to be a better person and this is what I get? I went back to drinking, partying and not really caring. I felt sorry for myself and anyone that might have to be around me. I worked in a local restaurant and I met some good people, but nevertheless hated the work. One of the guys I worked with in the kitchen became one of my dearest friends. He was lost like me. He was scared to come out of the closet and I was scared to live. We decided one day to go to a yoga class. I don’t much remember how or why it even came up. But, we went.

Kerry, the teacher, was my lifesaver! I was hooked after the first ten minutes. So was my friend Cory. Kerry was so calm. I left the class feeling like I was alive for the first time in two years. On my mat there was no eye problem, no pressure, no judgment. I was weak back then and had so much difficulty getting into any pose. I really did suffer through the physical part of the class. Savasana, oh Savasana. Meditation came so naturally to me. I found myself in the state I had encountered so long ago on that couch. Being able to see my life from an outside view and detach from the mess of life and take a moment in time to relax and breathe. It wasn’t scary this time, it felt right. We went every week. I just knew I wanted to do this, to teach this to people. This is how I could reach people. This is what I had been seeking for so long.

I went back to school. I became a Massage Therapist, a Reflexologist and finally a Yoga Teacher! My 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training warped my entire life into a great one. I had come a long way but this course was the cherry on top. I overcame my drug problems, my drinking problems, quit smoking, started eating healthy, let go of the unhealthy relationships and negativity around me and most importantly, I embraced myself for who I am. I did this all on my mat, through my asana. There are no words to describe the changes that occur in you once you practice yoga. It happens even if you don’t want it to, even when you think you are going for an exercise.

I know now why I lost my vision. If I had not, I would not be doing what I do today. I have helped people heal in the same ways yoga had helped me. Seven years of people I have helped. I am the owner of The Lila Centre, the first yoga studio to open in my small town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. I work with my original teacher Kerry and three other wonderful teachers. I feel lucky, happy and blessed in ways I could never put into words. I love going to work. I am at Peace.

Krissie Jane Penney owns and operates The Lila Wellness Centre and Yoga Studio in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. She currently practices massage therapy, reflexology and teaches yoga three days a week and loves every moment of her job. Krissie owns her own house, has a wonderfully supportive boyfriend and family, an amazing roommate and two very special fur babies. Words by which Krissie lives, “I Am Legally Blind and I Love Me!” She believes that everyone should feel this way and plans to help to heal people until the day she dies.

Edited by Jeannie Page.

Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.


True Knowledge is Miraculous

Name: Om Prakash Singh
Location:
New Delhi, India
Occupation:
Project Sales Manger

Durga Puja- Photo by Flickr User Matthias Rosenkranz.

My name is Om Prakash Singh. At the young age of four I was sent to live with my maternal grandparents for my studies. I would return home to my birthplace once a year to visit my parents. Even as a child I had a strong inclination towards worship and prayers. Being Indian, Durga Puja was celebrated with great enthusiasm at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather was a high profile person in administration and my grandmother was a generous householder with a strong sense of spirituality. Though she was not educated, she was the one that taught me my morning prayers. 

I enjoyed my life living with my grandparents and I acquired a solid education. I graduated from St. Paul’s School in Begusarai, Bihar, India with good grades and I then moved from Begusarai to Patna to further my education. I passed my Intermediate exams and went on to graduate from Magadh University in Patna. At a very early age I married a beautiful lady named Vandana, but as I had no earnings, it became difficult to support my small family. To earn money, I began teaching English and science to the students. But in the midst of all of this, bad relations began to develop with my maternal uncles and it completely altered my way of thinking.

ISKCON Temple Delhi- Photo by Flickr user wieland7.

Seeking answers to my personal struggles, one day I went to Delhi and I visited the ISKCON Temple. There I listened to a lecture given by the Chief Editor from The Telegraph. After listening to him and the way he answered questions, I was motivated to learn his way of living. But, I had fallen into a bad drinking habit of whiskey and wine on a daily basis. At this time I had a business working with architectural glass, but that began to fall apart with my lack of awareness and my increased indulgence in alcohol. After coming into dire financial hardship, I began to move from place to place in search of money, but my drinking habit continued.

After struggling for a very long time, I finally retreated back to ISKCON Temple and started listening to the lectures given each week by different saints. I started chanting the Mahamantra. In the beginning that was very difficult. I put all my work on hold for three months and dedicated myself to practicing chanting and reading spiritual books on a regular basis. Gradually, I began to enjoy the chanting and I learned to practice chanting by myself and did so day and night for several months.

Mantra chanting became my habit and I continued this for a long time, getting deeper into the practice. To complement my chanting practice, I began practicing pranayama, specifically Anulom Vilom, at night. While everyone else was asleep, I would practice my pranayama from midnight until 3:00 in the morning. My intuition became powerful and I began to see visions. My thoughts began to reveal truth and my knowledge of spiritual Indian scriptures became stronger and stronger. I began to understand Karma Yoga and Dhyana Yoga. My practice and my faith became stronger and stronger and my body and mind began to purify. I could see the burning candle of my soul.

One day, at the age of 31, I was in my village of Raillie with my parents. At this point my mind was fully submerged with thoughts of the Almighty. Everything seemed beautiful. I could find no wrong. Everything was right. I could see that everything was created by my Lord, the Almighty. I began to love all living entities and worried of even treading on the ants beneath my feet. In search of the divine, I went to the ancient village temple and I prayed for my soul to be revealed to me. 

Photo by Flickr User exper.

That night when I came back to my house I went to sleep on the top floor, beneath the open sky. I started chanting on beads and gradually began to practice pranayama. All of a sudden I was lost in great meditation. Someone came near me and pulled my hand. I felt the touch and my eyes opened. I saw that I was standing in front of my body. I was afraid and wanted to shout for help to my mother but my whole body was like a log, lying there and watching the incident. As I tried to move, I suddenly disappeared and my body became normal again. I quickly got up; I felt fresh, rejuvenated and young. I was so excited with this out of body experience that my practice grew even more intense.

Then one day I was traveling by train from Patna to Delhi. That day the train was delayed for six hours at the station at Mughal sarai. It was night time and there were many passengers in sleeper class. My body began to heat up and I developed a fever. The faith was so strong within me that I started chanting mantra on my beads and just after one hour my body temperature was normal.

From that point on, I began practicing this healing method on myself. Now I never get ill and I am able to feel the functioning of my whole body organ. If any pain arises, I can feel the organ where the pain resides. I concentrate on that organ for some time for it to be healed with vital forces and become healthy again. And I can feel the results.

This is all the power of mind. So, pay careful attention to your mind and try to discard all negative thoughts, and instead infuse your mind with the knowledge and wisdom of the Vedas.  You will start loving this world as it is.

Born in Begusarai, Bihar, India, Om Prakash Singh was nourished physically and mentally by his maternal grandparents. Wanting to lead an independent life guided by his feelings, his grandparents helped him to understand the laws of nature and how they apply to human behavior. He ultimately decided that the mind has the power to create the future person. Om Prakash Singh is a graduate from business administration and is currently working as a project sales manager in the architectural glass industry. His ambition is to seek peace for all mankind.

Edited by Jeannie Page.


Do you have a story of healing or transformation through yoga? The Yoga Diaries wants to hear it. Click here to submit your story.