Discomfort With A Purpose

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This morning I was practicing yoga as I often do before my children wake up.  

My practice was intense when my 8 year old daughter walked into my bedroom.  As I was lowering my hips off the bolster and rolling to my side after having my legs up the wall for quite a while, I was making some grunting and groaning noises.  My mid-back and spine were quite uncomfortable and relieving the pressure of the pose was causing even more discomfort than being in it.

I rolled to the side and sat up so I could give her a hug and say good morning.  After our early morning greeting she looked at me and asked, “When you get really good at yoga, will you not hurt anymore?”  I thought this was an excellent question.

I was still sitting on the floor and I answered while showing her on her body. “When you’re young, your age, many children, not all, have ankles that are lined up with their knees, knees that are lined up with their hips, spines that are still in the same shape they were designed to be in, and heads that rest comfortably on top of their necks.  As we get older we learn how to ride a bike and usually fall off in the process and that slightly changes our internal structure,” (yes I can say internal structure to my daughter). “Then we go skiing and fall and that again causes an injury. We hike, we are in car accidents, we give birth, we sit at desks, we do all sorts of things that change that internal structure we were born with. Those changes cause pain and discomfort as we get older. Yes, there are times when my yoga practice is very uncomfortable, but there is a purpose to the discomfort.  

I practice to undo some of those injuries and bring my internal structure back in the direction of the way it was designed to be, the way yours is now. Undoing the injuries is sometimes just as uncomfortable as getting them in the first place. So, while it sometimes hurts in the moment, the intention is to hurt less in the future.”

She looked at me and said, “Ok” in the way she does when I’ve over answered a question she’s asked.  She walked back into her room but then came back to me a few moments later. She asked, “Do you explain yoga to other people this way?” I said, “No, not really.” And then she said, “You should. I think people would really get it.”

I love that kid!

Laura I, Teacher & Owner, Kaiut Yoga Broomfield

Rethinking Nature

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Hi. It’s Francisco here.

I’m traveling a lot right now teaching across Brazil, Canada, the US, and Europe and as is often the case, my students have been asking me how I am able to handle this amount of traveling and teaching.

My most common answer is that I am just crazy about what I do. While it is sometimes quite strenuous and exhausting, it is only so in the physical sense. I never find myself feeling emotionally, energetically, or spiritually depleted. Let me explain.

Just last week I was closing the teacher training in the amazing city of Toronto, Canada. I was super pleased with the training and many of my students shared with me how impactful the experience was for them as well. As we shared this experience, I realized that there we were in a big city, with all the challenges of a big city, and yet at the same time we were together embracing nature - not the nature of mountains or forests - but the nature of a city environment and the nature within each of us. Instead of seeing the fact that we were in a city environment as a problem, we were embracing it as a source of energy. Instead of being depleted by the experience, we felt renewed.

Then, with only 2 days of travel in between, I was suddenly leading a teacher training in the countryside of the south of Brazil. The environment could not have been more different to that of my recent Toronto experience - the language, culture, food, my bed, everything. I was teaching in the woods and showering under a waterfall. Not only was it an extreme pendulum swing but I was in what we often call real nature.

What this gave me was the perfect opportunity to see and to understand that, while recharging is definitely necessary for all of us, we can recharge anywhere.

Being in the woods doesn’t mean we are more in nature than when we are in a big city. We carry nature inside of us wherever we go. We are nature. It’s just a matter of seeing, understanding, and embracing this new reality, this new nature, that allows us to truly absorb the flow - the flow of life in and around us, the flow of nature in and around us. Always. Wherever we are. Not seeing a big city as a source of separation but instead as a union. Not seeing the woods as a source of separation but also a source of union. And seeing ourselves as our main source of nature, accepting whatever environment we are in as a powerful healing tool.

Now, after just a few days in Brazil, I’m back to North America again - this time in Telluride, Colorado and enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains from the Kaiut Yoga studio. And I feel as at home as I did in Brazil. I am feeling very much like I am home wherever I go.

It is not a change in environment that we need to recharge, it is a change in how we see the environment we’re in. The nature we seek is our nature.

Namaste.

Francisco Kaiut, Creator of the Kaiut Yoga method

From Inflammation to Ease

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Until a year ago, I ardently resisted going to a Kaiut class. And then I literally ran out of excuses (and time, as I was moving away from Boulder in just a month). I couldn’t put my friend off any longer. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll come with you.” Thinking all the while, “I really don’t need another restorative/Yin/gentle stretching class.” And I didn’t.

The class was nice. Not earth-shattering in any way. No “sensations” at any point. Nothing was “challenging.” I didn’t experience any “discomfort” at any time. Honestly, I didn’t feel anything. At all. But it was nice. Like a warm bath or a gentle massage. I went home feeling like I was now off the hook from ever having to do that again, and could go back to my rigorous dance classes and a yoga practice that challenged my strength and flexibility and left me feeling nicely wrung out.

It wasn’t until I got out of bed the next morning that the earth did shatter.

No sooner did my foot touch the ground that I knew something was very wrong. It took a moment to figure out. I hadn’t winced in pain, in fact, I could feel my belly tight and my breath short in anticipation of the pain that should have come with getting out of bed. Only...it didn’t come. Wow.

One Kaiut class and something had grabbed the pain dial and turned it down several notches.

So that day I went back to Kaiut class - to two classes actually. Same result: nothing happening during the class, but lasting freedom from pain after. The next day, I took three classes. And kept on taking three classes daily for another week, my body and nervous system a desiccated sponge soaking up juice, class after class. When I was saturated, I went back to two classes a day, then just one.

For the first time in 17 years, my body was at ease for more than a handful of hours at a time. The pain dial, which usually fluctuated around a 6, had been turned down to a 3, and it seemed to be staying there.

That seriously rocked my world.

I had spent the past two decades in an exhaustive, desperate, and thus far fruitless endeavour to reduce the encroaching inflammation in my body. Craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, Rolfing, chiropractic adjustments, macrobiotic diet, raw diet, trigger point dry needling, Ayurvedic treatments, Chinese herbs, Botox injections in the muscles of my neck and back-everything worked (except the Botox) but for no more than a few hours at a time. Then the muscles of my neck and shoulders would inexorably begin to tighten, my upper back to stiffen, and moving my neck, shoulders, and hips became more painful.

As a last resort, I’d let Western medicine take a shot at it. For four months, my awesome, cutting edge doctor threw every blood test, imaging procedure, and specialist at me. “You have cervical dystonia,” she told me at last. Huh? “What it means,” she confided, “is that we have no idea what the problem is. We can track the inflammation in your tissues and we see that there is tremendous tension in your muscles, but we have no idea why your brain is telling your upper body (cervical spine) to contract and never let go. We believe it is a neurological condition akin to fibromyalgia, but short of giving you painkillers and muscle relaxants we have no idea what to do with you.”

Thanks, but no thanks. So I learned to live with the pain. I have a bag of tools amassed over the years to help me cope with it: breath, massage balls, wheels, spiky balls, baseballs, tennis balls, yoga postures, dance stretches, and a small army of body workers, all of which/whom give me temporary relief. After a couple of hours rolling, stretching, massaging the tension,  I could usually get on with my day.

Weirdly enough, in spite of the significant pain, I had no problem with mobility or flexibility. I was dancing four times a week and doing yoga a couple of times a week. And, while the movement itself was delightful in the moment, my body invariably started to contract again with a vengeance an hour or two after any activity.

Perhaps that mobility is why I didn’t “feel anything” in that first Kaiut class. I went nowhere near the limit of my flexibility or range of motion, so my joints and muscles had nothing to report. But a secret message had been delivered to my brain: “you don’t need to habitually contract these muscles any longer.”

Every Kaiut sequence I do on my mat has the same result: less tension in my tissues, more freedom in my body. During the ten days of my first training in Toronto, I felt virtually no pain. I slept through the night for the first time in many years. Night after night. It was ten days of bliss.

Much of that still comes through when I get on my mat and go through a Kaiut sequence on my own, not as clearly as in a class, but enough to keep inflammation under control and some softness in my upper body. I’ve given up going to other yoga classes, finally grokking that I invariably have to spend an hour in a Kaiut sequence to undo the damage I do in those classes.

So it’s me and my mat (and my booklet of Kaiut sequences), exploring my body’s response to each posture, each permutation. Often just shaking my head in wonder at this methodology which co-opts my body to interface directly with my nervous system, and the message is always: “be at ease.”


Malak Nour, Iowa, USA

Not So Counterintuitive

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We were talking in the Teacher Training in Toronto yesterday about forward flexion. Why? Why so many forward flexions? Isn’t curving your spine a bad thing to do? So many other yoga practices teach the opposite - open your chest.

This led to an interesting discussion about the reason we have a spine. Why did humans evolve to have a spine? To enable us to stand and hold ourselves upright? That might be our first thought, as if we didn’t have a spine our torso would essentially be all soft tissue and organs. But we don’t need the kind of spine we have to be upright. We have a spine that is made up of 33 bones stacked on top of one another connected by ligaments and muscles. Why 33 individual bones not one? So that our spine can flex, bend, curve and twist. And that freedom of movement is essential to life.  

The majority of our human form today evolved during the hunting and gathering era. Everything that has happened in social evolution since has happened over a short period of time by comparison. As hunters and gatherers we needed to be able to bend over to gather. We needed to be able to curve and twist to hunt.

Today, less so for sustenance, but we still need to bend and curve and twist. Try driving your car without being able to turn your neck or picking up a baby without bending your back. Try relaxing on a couch with a straight back or texting without any curve in your neck. We do very little in our day to day lives that doesn’t involve movement in the spine.

And yet of course, they way each of us moves our spines in our day to day lives isn’t necessarily optimal. Our modern lifestyle tends to be habitual so we move our spines in the same way over and over again. As a sitting civilization, we spend much of our day not moving our spines much at all. Overtime, things get stuck - blockages and restrictions develop which in turn limit our ability to move the spine when we need or want to, impacting our ability to live a productive and enjoyable life.

Forward flexions can help. They help us find the restrictions in our spine and only when we know they exist can we do something about them. Only when we know where they are can we work to dissolve them. Not quickly. Just as they didn’t develop quickly. But working slowly with the nature within to bring the spine back to a state of optimal range of motion. Not necessarily maximum but optimal.

Heidi, Kaiut Yoga

From Chiro to Kaiut

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In January 2017, I started having problems with my S.I. joints. For the next few months I saw my chiropractor at least once per week, more often twice, and by summer time I thought, “This is nuts. I’m spending all this money and this condition is persisting! I need a new approach!” My chiropractor had suggested I do specific muscle-strengthening exercises and I found they helped so, as I have always enjoyed Pilates, I thought I would get serious about doing Pilates workouts again. I decided to add yoga as well and started to frequent a studio close to my home. My S.I. joints soon weren’t bothering me as much and I was encouraged by this improvement.

Then my friend, Lela Iselin, sent me an email about a workshop she was teaching that included Kaiut Yoga classes. As I’d never heard of Kaiut Yoga, I was curious to try it. Lela said she was teaching classes twice per week at her home so I showed up for the next one. 

Although I was doing quite a bit of yoga that summer, I had never been enamoured with yoga. My fast-paced personality often found it boring and I preferred the stretching/strengthening combination of Pilates. But somehow, after my first Kaiut class with Lela, I was hooked! It slowed my nervous system down in a way no yoga class had done before and my body felt fantastic after each class!

As I continued practicing however, my S.I. joint issues got worse. There were days where it was impossible for me to sit on a bolster because the extra pressure it created was agonizing. I also felt that doing sukhasana was making my hips stiffer; often when getting up from a seated position I would feel so sore I would be stooped over and it would take me a number of steps before I could straighten out and walk without pain.

By this time, Lela had gone traveling so she wasn’t able to advise me on what was happening in my body, however I had signed up for the Toronto teacher training and was committed to learning more about Kaiut despite it seemingly hurting my body rather than helping it. 

Two things happened at the teacher training that turned things around for me. Firstly, Francisco told me to do my sukhasana with a straight back. When I first started doing them that way, there was still intense pressure in my hips. Three months and a lot of Kaiut practice later, I can actually angle forward a bit now and my S.I. joints don’t hurt anymore!

The second thing that happened was that at the end of one class, while still lying on my back, I decided to twist with my spine to make my S.I. joint pop. I thought I was helping my body but Lela saw me and said, “I suggest you don’t do that. That puts your body back into its old pattern around your S.I. joint. Let your Kaiut practice create a new pattern and let your body make the necessary adjustments.”

I really “got” that.

I don’t self-adjust anymore and I avoid my chiropractor too.

Instead, I’m happy to do my Kaiut practice, create new patterns, and let my body sort itself out - as I know it can!  

So when I woke up the other day and my upper back was locked up I thought, “I am going to do some serious Kaiut alphabet work today!”

No more chiro… Kaiut!

Namaste.

Nicolette Groeneveld, Kaiut Teacher-In-Training, Edmonton, AB, Canada