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How Yoga Teacher Training Helped Me Find Healing Courage When I Needed it Most

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After five surgeries and a lifelong battle with her health, one writer unexpectedly found strength and healing through yoga, friendship, and physical and emotional support.

After five surgeries and a lifelong battle with her health, one writer unexpectedly found strength and healing through yoga, friendship, and physical and emotional support.

“You’re better now, right?” people sometimes asked.

I had to hedge.

“Mostly,” I said. “I’m mostly OK.”

I wanted to be totally better, to have a clean break between sick and better. But illness like mine doesn’t work like that. It’s like having a cold that lingers, and you think every day might be the last day and tomorrow will be better, and then you forget what feeling better feels like and you just hang on, and “normal” changes, and you’re not sure if you still have a cold or not, until one day you wake up and you just don’t have a cold but you don’t know what broke it or why then. And I was in the in-between, even after I got better, for over a year.

I slowly edged off of almost all of my medications. I took 14 pills a day and then I took 13. Then 12, then 11, then 12, but one was different. And I kept doing everything else, everything I could think of: desensitization, allergy testing, enzymes, iron supplements, yoga, yoga, yoga. And therapy.

I signed up for a teacher training, and I set a rule: No one could touch me. It was enforceable because of the container of our weekends together, because there were only nine trainees total, because everyone was working through their shit. I was able to ease up during those hours, and because of that easing I was able to recognize how guarded I felt the rest of the time. And then slowly I began to touch again. First just my teacher-training partner, Kristen, who was so similar to me that I felt I could trust her. And then another woman, Alice, whose brightness and raspy voice felt like a waterfall of care. I touched them and then, once I could tell my nervous system that touch wasn’t only about pain, I let them touch me.

See also Healing Heartbreak: A Yoga Practice to Get Through Grief

I had been touched against my will for so many years by so many people. And they were, for the most part, well-meaning touches, pats on the arm, or hugs. But I had also been touched in ways that I had consented to but did not want. In a matter of a few years, I had brain surgery to drain a cyst that had hemorrhaged into my brain, heart surgery to seal an extra pathway in my heart that could lead to sudden death, and experienced a range of debilitating symptoms that turned out to be a rare disease called mast cell activation syndrome, which tricks your body into thinking it’s allergic to everything. I had consented to every one of my surgeries, but I had also been, occasionally, roughly handled. By trainee doctors—my surgeons were all at teaching hospitals—or by nurses for whom I was just another number. I was starting to remember more, too, about how it felt to lie down and put my head onto a plate, knowing even through the fog of Versed—the greatest anxiolytic ever produced—that my skull was about to be cracked open.

Every other weekend, I went to the yoga studio and learned the language of healing. I learned about empathic feelings and how I picked up the sadness and the fear and the anxiety of others. “I’m not an empath,” I’d written, proudly, on my application. A few weeks into the training, I realized that the opposite was true. That I am so deeply empathic that I’d had to numb myself for years with drugs and sugar and television and sex and men and women. I learned to talk my cohort through a pose, into and out of it again. I roared in
Lion’s Breath.

One evening, I experimented with letting another student touch my head. The tremulousness of her touch sent me into panic. I opened my eyes and looked up at the familiar ceiling of the studio.

“I’m in present time, I’m in present time, I’m in present time,” I whispered to myself. I tapped my arms, willing my body to come back to present time, out of the trauma accordion, but I couldn’t. It was stuck in exam rooms, surgery clinics, waiting lounges. It was stuck being touched, being scraped, being carved, being pierced. My teacher came by, sat down next to me, put her hands on my belly. I couldn’t breathe.

See also This Yoga Pose Raised $225K for Metastatic Breast Cancer. Here’s How You Can Help, Too.

“Get up,” she said. I did. “Get into Horse Pose,” she said. I did, standing with my feet three feet apart, knees bent, my hands pressing into the tops of my thighs. And then she roared and then so did I, reaching deep into my body for a sound I had never before made. I screamed, and then the scream turned into something else, and something deep and animal and unimagined came out of my lungs, my throat. I felt the rawness of my throat, my mouth, the way in which talking to doctors and friends and Allison and Lauren and Jason and Winston had kept me alive, the way I had talked myself into existence, and I let it go.

Paying so much attention to my body for six months helped me rewire my relationship with it. I hadn’t noticed how subtly a language of terror and anger had crept into my vocabulary.

“This fucking body keeps trying to kill me,” I had said once, and then I said basically the same thing again and again. I had been so antagonistic toward my body for so long. I’d replaced any kindness toward myself I’d cultivated with an overt hostility.

“Eff you, effing tumor-maker. What the hell is wrong with you?” was the kind of thing I thought to my body every morning, afternoon, and evening.

I understood, theoretically, that this probably wasn’t ideal. But I was so
angry. And the only way out was through: through slowly, over the course of those weekends, beginning to learn my body again. I replaced a loathing for my pelvic cavity, with its propensity to grow weird stuff, with an appreciation for my abdominal muscles through 15 rounds of abs. I replaced an excruciating sensitivity about my neck with an emphasis on what it felt like to stack my skull above my spine. As we learned more and more about sequencing, working with students, and understanding injuries, I learned more and more that my body could become some kind of home. Maybe one that had a couple of broken windows and weird closets, but one that was mine. I’d spent years feeling completely abstracted and then more years feeling completely dependent and trapped; here, finally, I could come back. I could come home.

See also The Simple 5-Part Practice to Encourage Self Acceptance

How To Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship by Eva Hagberg Fisher

Excerpted from How To Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship by Eva Hagberg Fisher. Copyright © 2019. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.



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Ayurveda

8 Ways Yogis Can Support Their Foot Health

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Support the foundation of your yoga practice.

Vivobarefoot is offering Yoga Journal readers an exclusive 15% discount through June 30, 2019. Get the discount code here.

Vivobarefoot is on a mission to change the footwear industry based on one simple insight – shoes should let your feet do their natural thing. By wearing Vivobarefoot wide, thin and flexible shoes, you can continue to strengthen your feet off the mat and throughout your everyday life, as well as reconnecting your feet with your brain and, ultimately, with the world, allowing you to reach your full natural potential. Check out vivobarefoot.com to learn more.​



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Ayurveda

6 Yogi Dads Inspiring Us This Fathers Day

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Here are six yogi dads who inspire us to continue to cultivate deeper and more meaningful relationships with the children in our lives through their sacred fatherhood. Thank you, dads!

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1. Jah Sun

“If you’re seeing this, it means you have a father. I had one too. He’s was a brilliant chemist of a top firm in NJ. Seen him twice my entire life. I’m thankful he made me. Truly! As much I longed to see him more as a kid, The Universe knew what I needed and having him more fully in my life could’ve been more damaging. Who knows? Doesn’t matter. What I do know it that’s it’s perfect – as is – and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wouldn’t be me otherwise. So, today, I’m not simply offering up some generic “Happy Father’s Day” to all fathers. Because being a “Father” takes very little skill, 3 minutes behind a school bleacher at age 15-16 (some start younger than that) – if we’re keeping it real like adults. I’m raising the bar. Elevating the standard. I’m unwilling to continue to celebrate the bare minimum. Honoring men with zero, or little connection to their children and send money like they’re paying a car note. In and out, when it suits them, like a revolving door at a hotel. Instead, I’m standing up to SALUTE ALL DADS! Men who are there, present and CONSISTENT for their children (and being with Mom is not a requirement to be available for your baby). MEN who have taken up the mantle to raise another man’s child (that they left behind), and became Dad for them. I stand up and SALUTE ALL MOMS doing double duty as BOTH parents. I was a single dad for 5 years, so I don’t empathize – I sympathize because I did it too. Real life experience. The pain of that hurts on levels many can’t comprehend. So, I see you, and I’m proud of you! For the True DADS of all genders, skin colors and geographical location – SALUTE! Keep up the amazing work. Our children deserve nothing less!”

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2. Aubert Bastiat

“3/8/2019. Today I’m celebrating Cairo’s 1 year on this earth. Today I’m celebrating beautiful @divinedavana who I love more everyday. Today I’m celebrating my mother, my sisters and the Sacred Feminine in all Her expressions. ⁣

I celebrate not by word alone but by holding the highest vision and I do so through love, intention and action. ⁣ Although it’s only been a year since Cairo was born truly this last year has been the most EPIC of my entire existence. It was after becoming a father to Cairo at 33 that my vision became grounded to this earth in such a way that the manifold expressions of my service to this world crystallized into a singular focus – anchoring the Sacred Masculine to this earth.⁣ Because there is no greater gift that I can give to my family, community and this world than embodying the Sacred and anchoring it to this earth through every aspect of my life.⁣”

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3. Alonzo Nelson Jr. M.Ed

After 9 months and 41 hours of labor, my princess has arrived. April 10th at 6:43pm, Harper Renee Nelson made her grand entrance into my life. Fatherhood is my new favorite job. Sorry math!”

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4. Brian Delmonico

I didn’t know what to expect when Mia Luna was born. Like any new parent to be I received a love blast like nothing else I’ve ever experienced before. Holding her, calming her, changing her, smelling her, and loving her is a feeling I don’t think I could ever put into words. [The first two weeks of her life] changed my world, and brought new meaning to every moment of my life.”

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5. Adam Jackson

“Listening to music with Noah makes me hear it differently. I can hear it for the first time through him. We’re doing a little dance here. I want to show him everything. I can’t wait for him to show me everything.”

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6. Peter Maldonado

My favorite girl. Being a dad to such a gentle delicate little kid like her comes with challenges. Sometimes I have no clue what I’m “supposed” to be doing with her. I just make sure she’s fed, clean, and genuinely happy. I feel like she teaches me way more about life than I teach her. Grateful that recovery has enabled me to be the best dad I can be to this kiddo. Because she’s pure love and deserves the best.”



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YJ Tried It: I Followed an Ayurvedic, Dosha-Balancing Diet for a Week

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Yoga Journal video contributor Sky Cowans tries following an Ayurvedic nutrition plan based on her dosha (mind-body type).

Yoga Journal video contributor Sky Cowans tries following an Ayurvedic nutrition plan based on her dosha (mind-body type).

Ayurveda is the world’s oldest health system and the sister science of yoga. Ayurveda is based on the elements in nature. According to Ayurveda, there are three mind-body types called the doshas. Vatta, Pitta, and Kapha. Vatta is air, Pitta is fire and Kapha is the earth. Based on your mind-body type, Ayurveda offers various nutrition, self-care, and spiritual recommendations to bring the mind, body, and spirit back into balance and harmony.

In this video, Sky interviews Sahara Rose, an Ayurvedic expert and nutritionist. Sahara discusses Sky’s Pitta imbalance and advises her how to structure a meal plan to bring her body back to balance.

See also 7 Chakra-balancing Ayurvedic Soup Recipes



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