On day two of the Telluride teacher training I was feeling quite down about my lower back pain. I chose to observe instead of practice during two of the evening classes and I was really starting to doubt if I should have signed up for this training, given that only a month ago I had finished 8 days of the Toronto teacher training and in between I had been practicing daily, camping, hiking, and doing everything except resting. The back pain seemed to be a result of overuse leading to inflammation (in this case, doing too much of a good thing) and not allowing sufficient rest for the changes in my body to integrate.
On day three, Francisco asked me if I could remember any trauma or any specific injury to this lower back area. At first I said, “no.” I wasn’t intentionally lying, but I had forgotten that there was a story. Then, it hit me.
“Well, it’s not any serious trauma, but when I was younger my best friend pulled my bent knee to the back of my head. I felt a strong zap in the same spot I have the pain now.”
Francisco acknowledged my story without paying too much attention to it, simply asking “How many years ago did this happen?”
“We were just starting high school so about 15 years ago…”
In the middle of my response Francisco was already walking away with a smirk on his face. I laughed and then analyzed intellectually what was going on. I started comparing my story to other stories. My trauma was not real trauma. Sure, I was scared in the moment when it happened and I had lower back pain throughout high school and during my college years playing tennis competitively. I self-medicated with Advil on a consistent basis. Nevertheless, I minimized my story. Others have faced much more serious trauma, and I am young so I have less to clean up.
The next day Francisco put me on the demo table in front of the class and had me in a version of Virasana I had never done before, with my feet flexing outwards and heels in. Given my fears and delicacy towards my knees I was so pleased to arrive in this pose without thinking about the knee sensation. Rather, my focus was on the clear feedback I received from my system regarding the source of my low back pain. My hip was speaking to me: “I am responsible for your back pain. Your work is to dissolve me, approaching me with intensity, but in a kind and loving way. Allow yourself to feel me and feel the memories and stories attached to my existence.”
I released the Virasana after what felt like 15-20 minutes and walked around the room with a relieved back and most importantly, a deeper understanding of the emotional connection to this pain. I allowed myself to feel the memory and instantly I was flooded with a realization.
You see, Tyler, my best friend who caused my back pain, passed away last year. Emotionally, I have spent the last year feeling the impact of losing him. I wrote a song honouring him and have discussed the meaning of his death to many close to me, often breaking down. However, I realize now that I never dealt with the physical restrictions or blockages that were stored inside me because of Tyler and my life connection.
I decided to reframe the whole story. The so-called pain I now perceived as Tyler manifesting inside of my body. He would have absolutely loved this style of yoga and his personality would shine bright at the teacher trainings. So long as I was at the Telluride training, Tyler was right next to me. Moreover, his manifestation in my hip actually helped me become more present and have a deeper understanding of my body restrictions. For that, I am so grateful for Tyler’s companionship, Francisco’s guidance, and the safe space held by all the teacher trainer peers in Telluride.
My takeaway to share with you all is the following: How can we expect to clean out/dissolve restrictions in our bodies that are so intimately tied to emotional charges in an aggressive or rapid fashion? The approach must be soft, just like the way I would embrace Tyler with a big hug and then slowly release him. The approach must also respect the time component. We cannot speed up the pace of progress, nor do we want to. I embrace Tyler and all of my restrictions. I am so grateful for his presence in this training. We sure learned a lot.
Naveed Heydari, Teacher In Training, Denver USA