Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chapter 2, Muladhara Memory

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Chapter 2
Muladhara Memory

When a child enters a world where she/he is only valued, nurtured, loved and protected, is trust innate? It's a quality I am cultivating now as I move through my years. When the pain in my mid-back disappeared so suddenly and completely, I gained a lot of trust in yoga as a tool for healing. There are several paths of yoga. We are advised to develop our strengths but to try all of the paths. I am predominantly a hatha yogi. It became clear to me that although physical, my yoga practice touched mental and emotional layers as well.

I began to focus on my lower back. The whole area was tender and sore. I often suffered sacroiliac and/or sciatic pain. I'd been in a car accident where I was thrown from the vehicle when I was sixteen. I'd carried three pregnancies to full term. I couldn't attribute the pain to any specific cause or event. I assumed it was accumulation.

I started to glean that yoga might be a way to work backward through old injuries. There is a saying in yoga "the poses that hurt are the poses that heal" which is not the same as, in fact is diametrically opposed to "no pain no gain". The secret for me was to find the poses that would take me to the place of pain, but then work there on the gentlest side of discomfort. I used back bends such as cobra, locust, bow and wheel to encourage circulation, ease stiffness and tension, build strength and suppleness, realign and create symmetry.

Over time with gentle, patient, persistent practice, the pain that had encompassed my entire lower back, began to shrink and narrow. Eventually I only felt the discomfort in my tailbone, but it was intense. I had to sleep with a pillow between my legs, my coccyx held a lot of pain.

Hatha yoga was my first love but lightning struck again when I met an aspect of Bhakti yoga. Sanskrit chanting. It moved me so deeply that I knew I wanted to share it. The problem was paralyzing fear, more like a phobia really that would start my heart racing in panic and cause my vocal chords to seize up at the mere thought of singing in front of anyone. When I heard the quote "to live life fully you must do that which you fear the most", it struck a chord. In an attempt to overcome what I knew was irrational fear, fear that was holding me back from doing something I loved, singing, I enrolled myself in private voice lessons.

In the middle of the night before my first lesson, I woke up in a state of panic, the voice in my head telling me I couldn't go through with it. It was scheduled for late afternoon and I was riddled with anxiety all day but when the time came, I went to my lesson. I know it's not jumping out of an airplane or rescuing someone from a burning building but all the same, for me it took a lot of guts. I give myself credit for showing up.

Carol was an angel, compassionate, understanding but also exuberant and passionate about the voice. I spent almost three years taking lessons with her. For a while we even traded yoga lessons for voice. I did very little in the way of singing though. She worked with the breath. She taught me exercises to both strengthen my vocal chords, and make them supple. She encouraged an attitude of play as well as awareness and control. She taught me yoga for the voice. With gentle patient persistence, we nudged at the parameters of mine. She told me time and again that "the voice is a doorway to the soul" and she could always hear in my voice if something was going on in my life.

Coincidentally or synchronistically, I started the voice lessons around the same time that I began working in earnest on yoga to alleviate my lower back pain. In 2001 after about two years of working simultaneously on both, a memory surfaced.