Archives for posts with tag: hernia

I sometimes got myself thinking why I am posting yoga blogs and why I am trying so hard to write these blogs. Yes, I love to write and I feel as if I was just born to write. However, I cannot keep myself from thinking whether people are really reading the posts or whether they are making a difference or being beneficial to some people’s lives. When these thoughts come to my mind, I stop writing for a while. Then a moment comes and life reminds me why I should write. 

I have not been writing for a few weeks. Besides group and private yoga classes, the yoga teacher training program is so full and I cannot have time to post blogs. Moreover, I have a private life. Whenever I turn on the computer to post a blog, I find myself taking notes for the training or making researches for the training. However, I should write. This is what makes me happy. How could I get away from myself and the things that makes me happy this much and when did this happen? 

Daily flow of life reminded me the answer to this question. One morning, I got the answer when a friend of mine with whom we are training teachers called me. She told me that a woman called the studio, who was suffering from a serious herniated disc in her lumbar spine. Doctors had advised that she undergo a surgery but she instead googled to read about herniated discs. That was when she found one of my blogs on herniated discs and then she found the yoga studio of my friend and called the studio. My friend invited her to the studio for a free trial class and had a really beneficial class with the woman. The woman told my friend that she felt so relieved after the class and she had not felt so well for a long time.  

After the class, my friend called me and informed about the development. That was when I found out the answer I had been searching for a long time. Why was I writing? I was looking for an answer for a long time and I was thinking that what I was doing was just in vain because there was not any satisfying answer to my question. However, maybe I was writing a blog in order to beneficial to only one person. Only one person would benefit from it and maybe this benefit would be today, tomorrow or a year later however that blog would be a healing for “just one person.” This reminded me a story I shared with you years ago. A story by Lauren Tseley: 

“Once upon a time there was an intellectul who used to write his stories on the shore of the ocean. Before starting writing, he used to walk on the shore. One day, he saw a man who seemed like dancing on the beach. He thought that the man could be a person who liked to start the day by dancing and he smiled. He walked fast to catch up with the man. When he got closer, he saw that it was a young man who was in fact not dancing. He was running a few steps, taking something from the ground and then throwing it to the ocean smoothly. He talked to the man as he came a few steps closer: 

– Good morning sir. What are you doing? 

The young man raised his head and answered: 

– I am throwing starfish to the ocean. 

– I think I should ask in another way, thought the intellectual. Why are you throwing starfish to the ocean? 

– The sun has already risen up and it’s the low tide. If I don’t throw them to the ocean, they will die. 

– But don’t you see that the coast is kilometers long and full of starfish. It will make no difference. 

The young man listened to the intellectual politely, took another starfish and threw it to the ocean. 

– It made a difference for this one. 

This answer surprised the intellectual and he could not know what to say. He went back home. When he tried to write for the rest of the day, all he could do was to see the man’s face in front of his eyes. He tried not to think of the man but he could not. In the end, he realized what the young man was trying to do. The young man was trying to be an actor in the universe and making a difference instead of being just an observer and watching what was going on. He felt ashamed. That night he did not sleep well. He woke up next morning, got out of bed and went to the shore to find the young man. He spent the morning throwing starfish to the ocean with the young man.” 

Maybe I am calling it “just a blog” however maybe that single blog will make a difference in the life of “a single starfish” that is just one person. I really want to thank to that person who inspired me again in days when I question why I am still writing blogs. I am grateful for having yoga in my life, reaching people with yoga, helping and extending body, soul and mind support to people with yoga as much as I can, and touching not only my life but also lives of other people. How could one be better than this? 

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“Teacher, I have been doing yoga for years but after I met you, I have realized that yoga cannot be considered a sports activity and that yoga means a series of exercises I experience with the full unity and integrity of my body, soul and mind.”

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This sentence is one that every yoga instructor wants to hear once in his/her life. This sentence defines what yoga is. This sentence expresses the change of a person who started yoga for just physical benefits. It expresses the experience of difference dimensions of yoga and the progress of a person after s/he saw that yoga is not just a sportive activity. In fact, this sentence summarizes what yoga is. How? Let me try to explain as much as I can.
We always say that yoga is not a physical activity but the unity and integrity of body, mind and soul. Yoga is accepting your body, mind and soul as they are. Yoga means being one with the divine soul. Yoga is not just a physical activity, but physical activities are just a part of yoga. We prepare our bodies, soul and mind to become one by doing physical activities called “asana” or “pose.” The aim is to ensure the unity and integrity of the body, mind and soul and live in continuous meditation. Happy, peaceful and in full harmony.
The main reason why yoga is so widespread in western cultures is some physical problems. Particularly neck and lower back problems and herniated discs are the common cause that makes people try yoga. People start to feel body problems due to long hours in front of computers and lack of physical activities and try yoga just for physical benefits.
Actually, this is one of the reasons why yoga is widespread in western societies. We cannot expect a person to immediatly start meditating and ensure body, soul and mind integrity when s/he joins a yoga class. Some people may be doing yoga for years but can only stay in “asana” — physical activity — dimension and can never go beyond or even prefer to go beyond.
Then, generally people start yoga with “asana” practice. In fact, the aim is to wake the body up with asanas, to develop, stretch, strength it and then prepare it for what is beyond.
If I go back to the first sentence… Teacher, I have been doing yoga for years but after I met you, I have realized that yoga cannot be considered a sports activity and that yoga means a series of exercises I experience with the full unity and integrity of my body, soul and mind.” I have heard this sentence from a person who has been doing yoga for years. This sentence was uttered by a person who is not only doing yoga but also doing other physical activities and wants to progress. The group was working with another instructor before me. They have been at a certain level in yoga asanas. I am choosing intermediate and advanced asanas when I prepare a lesson for this group because I know that they are physically strong to do those asanas. Then why did this person use such a sentence? Because she knew that she was physically strong, she had muscle strength, she could do every asana in the best way. So why it was so difficult to do a handstand (adho mukha vrksasana), crow (bakasana) or to jump from bakasana to chaturanga dandasana (low plank)? So that we have muscle strength and we are physically strong, why can’t we do some poses? This was the moment my student was enlightened. As this happenes to everyone who is interested in yoga, she realized that asanas could only be done with the unity and integrity of the mind, body and soul rather than physical power and strength.
How strong our arms are, we feel them like a 10-kilogram dumble when we are asked to stand in virabhadrasana II (warrior II) for a few minutes if our mind says “no.” Our arms want to go down and we feel our arms as if they are 20 kilograms or more. We cannot keep them hanging on our sides.
Let’s assume that we have strong quadriceps muscles. No matter how strong they are, we cannot stay in utkatasana (chair) for a minute if our mind does not let us to do so. Our legs start to say, “hello, I am here, and I am burning.”
The only important thing is the unity and integrity of mind, body and soul. And surely the integrity of the breath… A calm and flowing breath. Then we can start to experience yoga and we can see the changes in our lives. Then, yoga is no more just a physical activity but a mood and a life style. This is the only goal and desire of all instructors.

One of my students asks a question in a lesson. “I am suffering from a herniated disc. Is this pose harmful to me?” In that moment, I understand why my teachers attached so much importance to anatomy in the one-year teacher training program. I see that yoga and anatomy are an indispensable whole, and I ask myself: “Does a yoga instructor have to know anatomy?” or “At what extend should a yoga instructor know anatomy?”

856944_488656311198775_259995132_o(1)I can see the advantages of the anatomy lessons I took during the 200-hour hatha and vinyasa yoga teacher training program las year. Surely, as a student, I complained that why we had to learn anatomy in such a detailed way as if we had been a doctor. On one side we were taking medical anatomy from a doctor on the other hand we were taking yoga anatomy from our own yoga instructor. We were taking anatomy lessons for almost four hours every month. Bones, muscles, joints, nervous system and many other things you can imagine. As a student, the worse thing was we were supposed to take an exam at the end of the program. Think a while. High school and university were over, and we were all people who were earning their living, and we were supposed to learn so difficult things and take a test. Unbelivable but true.
A year later, I can see that yoga and anatomy cannot be separated from each other and in fact, anatomy is the most valuable treasure of a yoga instructor.
When we enter a studio, our students consider us as fully-fledged yoga instructors. They think that we are experts in yoga asanas, philosophy and anatomy. Under these circumstances, we need to share our know-how with  them and update ourselves and our knowledge continuously.
What are the benefits of a yoga instructor who knows anatomy well? First of all, when we know anatomy, we can explain asana alignments in detail, know what kind of anatomic problems can occur in case of a wrong alignment, and we can inform our students well. If our students have a health problem, we can modify the asanas according to them and help them enjoy more benefits. For instance, if a student is suffering from a herniated disc and if we know the exact place and stage of hernia, we can modify the poses according to the condition of our students and help them get the maximum benefit from yoga. We may ask our student not to do some certain poses, and recommend him/her a different asana when the rest of class is doing a particular pose. Let’s assume that one of our students is suffering from sciatica. If we do not know anatomy, we can increase. pain of that student in forward bends. However, with our anatomy knowledge, it is possible to alleviate the problems of that student. Of course, with the help of his/her doctor. When we want our student to fold forward, we may ask him/her to bend his/her knees, put a blanket or bolster under his/her hips and we can make him/her comfortable in that pose. We can recommend a student with knee issues to keep his/her knee in a 90 degrees angle with his/her ankle, or in a simpler explanation, we can recommend that his/her knee not pass his/her ankle. We can put a blanket under his/her knees in sitting poses.

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As yoga instructors, we all know that knee issues stem from tense hip muscles. Recommending hip opening poses to a student who has knee problems can be an alternative.
If a student has cervical disc hernia, we can remind him/her to keep his/her head in the neutral position in poses when we look up, down or left or right.
In conclusion, there is something yoga instructors should keep in mind: “We are just yoga instructors, not doctors.” As yoga instructors, the only reason we know anatomy is not to hurt our students and to be beneficial to them as much as we can. What we should do when a new students comes to class is to learn his/her medical background, if s/he has any health problems or an accute illness in order not to hurt them but to make them more heealthy and happier. When they ask our advice on some health issues, we should just listen to them, give a few small yoga recommendations and encourage them to see a doctor for medical help. We should not forget that we are just yoga instructors, not doctors. Our aim is to only ensure a bodily, spiritual and mental relief and peace to people.