Bad back? Depression? Insomnia? Just ask Joe! A tailored yoga practice can assist with these, and many other conditions.
Joe’s story (which follows) shows that even long-standing issues can be shifted with the help of yoga – coupled with determination, discipline, persistence, and a little bit of luck.
When Joe came to our yoga studio, he had retired from a desk job. He was an affable, “true blue” Aussie type of bloke. He was pretty stiff and not overly fit.
Joe had been coming to class for a few weeks when he mentioned that he was having trouble with insomnia. He was trying to wean himself off prescription sleeping tablets by taking them on a cycle of 2 nights on and 2 nights off. He was struggling, but he was successfully cutting down on the tablets. We talked about how yoga could help.
The next time Joe came to class he was the only one there. We took the opportunity to do a yoga sequence for insomnia. He reported afterwards that he had the best night’s sleep he’d had in ages, and asked for a copy of the sequence. I forgot his initial request, but Joe persisted and asked again. I think he knew on some level that yoga offered him a way forward. So I wrote out the sequence for him and gave it to him the next day.
I’d drawn stick figures and given some approximate timings. He looked over every one of my pictures and asked me questions – “What if I haven’t got a bolster, could I use some rolled up blankets?” “I think I could use my coffee table for that one”. He scribbled notes all over the sheet I’d given him, and re-wrote things in a way that made sense to him.
A week later he was going well. He was practising the sequence each night for an hour and getting a reliable 6 hours sleep a night – unthinkable a couple of weeks prior.
We did the sequence in class again so that Joe had the opportunity to clarify a few things. His practice was evident in his comments: “Oh, I haven’t been doing it like that.” “Yeah. I’ve been skipping that one.” “I put the timer on and do a full five minutes for these.”
In the end, Joe came off his sleeping tablets altogether, and he described yoga as a life saver.
But it was only a life-saver because Joe committed to the practice:
• He took it on board. He “owned” the practice. It wasn’t just a matter of following a sheet that was handed to him. He had to chase me up to get it in the first place, and he described the poses in his own terms in order to understand what I’d written. For props where he needed them, he used what he had at home.
• He showed discipline. He organised his life so that he could practice each evening. This didn’t happen straight away. When he first started with us at the studio, he came to class one morning after a big night the night before. He quickly learned that “yoga and hangovers don’t mix well”. But it was his choice that the yoga was the thing that continued.
• Luck played its part. He was in class by himself twice. Perhaps there is always an element of serendipity to a story that has a happy ending.
• There was persistence. He practised the sequence and got results even though he hadn’t “perfected” his understanding of the poses. I feel that he intuitively knew that he just had to get in there and do it. Interestingly, it was by practising the poses at the level of understanding that he had, that he gained a deeper understanding.
• And ultimately reward. He was getting a good night’s sleep.
Joe’s story is a fine example of practice. His story shows the value of practice but also the mechanism of practice – the fact that you have to actually get in there and do it.
“Just do it” - isn't that what Nike say?
But that simple phrase - "Just do it" - belies the complicated reality. In Joe’s story you can see that he had to rearrange his life in order to honour his commitment. You can see that he was quite forgiving of himself – he didn’t feel that he needed to get it right the first time. There are times when just getting to class is a huge achievement. There are times when we’ve missed the odd class and coming back to class seems like it’s going to be such hard work. These times are all part of practice.
And there is always the element of luck to be found in our lives and to be taken into practice. Perhaps there is one day when you find yourself free and can try practising at home. Perhaps you’ll find that your next door neighbour is coming to class and can give you a lift. The trick here is to see the opportunity when it arises and to be willing to seize it.
So that one word – practice – which we described in our first blog as “perhaps not so hard to understand” might be a challenge to actually do. But the reward – in Joe’s case a good night’s sleep – priceless!
This blog was written by Helen with some very helpful editing from Bruce!