Yoga and cycling are two very different activities that have found common ground in a program developed specifically to bring the benefits of yoga to cyclists and their unique needs. Some of the most common complaints of cyclists—shoulder and back pain, neck strain, and joint aches—are most readily addressed by the practice of yoga. In fact, yoga can not only relieve such complaints, but can actually enhance performance for some cyclists by working under used muscle groups, increasing inner and outer focus, and cultivating a sense of calmness and overall balance.
Fitness is an important part of our lives and of our well-being, both physical and mental, and many Westerners are reconsidering spiritual fitness. In most Eastern approaches to health, spiritual well-being is intimately connected to one’s overall health at every level and to the world around us. As bodyworkers, we touch this truth daily—in our practices and through our relationships: to our own body, to those of our clients, to the community and environment. Our state of being is affected by and affects others. There is an undeniable interdependence.
Long before paper was invented, the Chinese recorded their history on thin slivers of bamboo. In fact, the material was used in a multitude of ways, ranging from musical instruments to elaborate decorations, artwork, and even agricultural tools. Since bamboo was incorporated into so much of daily life, it wasn’t long before it was used as a form of creative and spiritual expression, which quickly took on ritual and healing connotations.
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT) was developed out of a vision of empowering people to make fundamental changes in their lives by learning to listen to their inner voices—voices that sometimes get drowned out in the din of modern life or ignored as we rush through our days. As we ignore this internal dialogue, it may become louder, manifesting as increased stress, chronic pain, depression, or anxiety.
We’re busier than ever with longer workdays, less leisure time, shorter lunch hours, longer commutes, and more demands than ever before. We may even be in a job that doesn’t fulfill us, yet we spend most of our time there. When the day ends, we have almost no energy left to do what we enjoy. We live in a society that gives us ongoing mixed messages: one message has us aggressively achieving success, another collapsing in front of a TV or computer screen for “relaxation,” and another working out to achieve a perfect body.
My family’s history is one of lack — not of money, food, or possessions — but of self-love. This history has manifested in heart disease and related conditions, as this lack of self-love was compensated for by food, taken in abundance or denied in extreme. Our hearts ached as our bodies became ill; yet we barely recognized this, so disconnected were we from the very thing that was meant to nourish us. This legacy is one shared by many today: a malnourishment in both body and heart, which is, in effect, a starvation of the soul and an act of great harm against ourselves and others.
Yoga and bodywork, in their complete expression, are similar fields of practice and self-study. They support one another as learning experiences and as healing systems. Both share a common foundation that focuses on the body and the breath in order to deeply understand the physiological and psychological aspects of our form and the energy systems that support it.
It is through our bodies that we experience life.
It is through our physical self that we can awaken to whom we truly are.
How do we do this? Through our senses. Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch — each sense is a doorway inviting us to rediscover the pleasure and rewards of being in our bodies, being in the present, and appreciating our surroundings.
“I call it my shark bite,” Phyllis says, whose entire left side from breast to lower abdomen has scars from five operations, all of which occurred within one year as the result of migrating cancer and other complications. One-quarter of her lung, four ribs, part of her breast and its surrounding tissue, her uterus, and a segment of her lower intestine were removed.
Bangkok, Thailand, a city famous for its exotic offerings, is also the site of Wat Pho’s Traditional Medical and Massage School — a center for the teaching, research and practice of the Thai healing tradition. It is a school unlike those seen in North America. At Wat Pho, massage and medicine are taught in a Buddhist temple — the “wat” — adorned with filigreed designs and garden statues of figures in various postures dating back to the 16th century. It is here, in these forms and in this temple, that we find both an ancient art and an age-old philosophy.