A Yogi in Scotland
A teacher shares his healing journey (2002)
The Vedas (Yogic Scriptures) remind us of the importance of our dreams. I have always dreamed of visiting Scotland’s Findhorn Foundation. Many friends and my mother had told me so much about it. Findhorn has been a growing eclectic spiritual community for 40 years. Well-attended conferences make up this “University of Light.” There are small businesses—a reforestation company, a pottery and a book press, to name but a few. There are interfaces with the three surrounding towns, for example a Waldorf Stiener School, which was started by Findhorn folks.
As fate would have it, I found myself at Findhorn in January 2002, visiting a friend and teaching yoga. For two weeks, I had fun getting to know the community, the land, the music. I taught yoga, enjoyed the pebble beach and a 1,000-year-old ritual stone Cairn. I volunteered as a carpenter and made pottery. The other yoga teacher there exchanged classes with me. A rock star (The Waterboys` Mike Scott) gave a benefit concert.
One drizzly day I had a turn of fate. A new Scottish friend took us to explore some ocean caves. I climbed up inside a big cavern to a hole looking out to sea. Sitting in that stone window, I meditated with the seagulls and played my flute while the gulls circle-danced on the wind a few feet away. I walked farther out on the flat rocks of the muddy tidal pools to be where my friends could see me. I slipped on the mud, landing flat on my face and caught my flute between my wrist and chest bone. I took one look at my crooked wrist and knew I’d be making a wee visit to a Scottish hospital. Aye, but emergencies are “Scot free” in Britain. The doctors told me I mustn’t fly so soon—so I extended my stay a week.
In spite of the constant pain, I taught anyway. With my arm in a cast I could not demonstrate most of the poses. I gave more attention to whether the students were getting the movements and rhythm of their breath. I dropped into the “class-breathing pattern.” After class, students were in a state of bliss. Only later did I realize what had happened. I saw that I had been teaching with an unconscious veil covering my emotional wounds, or samskaras. I unconsciously hid these wounds, and my acting had created a subtle block between my students and I. As a teacher so obviously wounded , I dropped the energy of hierarchy and came down to my students’ level. I taught what I knew would work for that class’s level of fitness. The class responded with an energetic (pranic) upliftment. After class, a young woman who had reluctantly been pulled into the second yoga asana class of her life, related how the first class seemed way too much like work, but in the second, she let her breathing energize her joyfully through the poses.
My teaching was best when the students experienced their breath as an energetic vehicle to dance with. In order to communicate this, first I needed to trick myself into joining this dance. I chose a painful method, aye?
On my last hike in Scotland, I reflected on my experience. The Scots Pine, with its Ponderosa bark and wide majestic branches reminded me of the roots and limbs of yoga. The greenery and smiling student faces affirmed I am following my calling as a teacher.
Months later I found an appropriate sutra of Patanjali’s:
“The incidental-cause [accident] does not initiate the processes of evolution, but merely is responsible for the singling out of possibilities [or creativity]; like the farmer who irrigates a field by selecting appropriate pathways for the water.” (Chapter 4, Sutra 3, translated by G. Feuerstein)
While my wrist healed, I practiced and taught yoga creatively and cautiously. Although it took a year and a half to get my strength back, this fracture was an opportunity, like all injuries, to learn the wondrous workings of the body/mind. Throughout my life there have been many times when yoga has helped me to heal such aliments as “potter’s back” (scoliosis), a torn knee ligament, elbow dislocation, and torn hamstrings muscles. I know firsthand the risk (through injury) of over stretching certain muscles. During yoga poses these injured muscles have a built in “reminder bell”. They remind me to be caring, with either a gentler stretch, an alignment adjustment, or a conscious breathing into those risky muscles. I have noticed many respected yoga teachers speak with more conviction about asanas that have helped heal parts of their bodies.
Thankfully, I have also learned how emotions play their part in the healing process. Many injuries have pushed me towards inner healing. My 10 year sacrum pain (low back) simply would not heal without finally accessing the emotional root. After facing and releasing emotions of attachment to relationship and career, the sacral pain finally subsided. When I stress about these issues, the pain returns, when I face them again it subsides. Each time I heal I am amazed at how magical my body is, to respond to the healing power of conscious breath and movement, practiced with faith in oneself. What feeds all healing, is a wee bit of faith.
Bu’ aye, ma’ees and lussies, I na’ forge’ da wee lesson in da fer ov eyle o’ gadreen.
[ But yes mates and lassies, I`ll not forget the small lessons in the far off isle of green.]
Makaan Burt teaches yoga and Back Pain Workshops in Boulder and Denver.
For more: HYPERLINK mailto:Makaan@etstreet.com Makaan@etstreet.com or – 303 440 8119 www.Natureyoga.net