Heart Chakras, Balates Love & Frame Fitness Fanatics
I experienced a massive inward transformation at the end of February. As usual my yoga teacher training at The Aditya Yoga School (module 4, Air element/ Heart chakra/ Circulation) fell on auspicious time in the year. Sunday 1st March was a day of opening my heart. Whether or not we agree that chakras do or do not exist, there is a direct correlation between (for instance) places along the spine and the organs and systems of our bodies (nerves branch out between each vertebrae and send messages to every cell). I experienced this first hand early in the morning of Wednesday 18th February when my back spasmed during my sleep and I was frozen with the sharpest, angriest pain I have felt, for a while (2 years to the day infact, 2013 when I was hospitalised with an aggressive bartholin's cyst, emergency surgery, 2 months off work, burn out time!!)
I may be going off on tangents, but its all completely connected and related (as everything and everyone is).
My back spasmed, my body cried out at me aggressively to stop what I was doing. I was stuck, literally, unable to move, my pelvis had twisted, sacrum rotated to the right, thoracic spine pulled to the right, cervical spine pulled to the left, atlas joint of the skull locked entirely, skull was laterally pulled left, tilted forward and twisted right. Thats not to mention what was going on with my ribs and right shoulder blade.
My angels that day were the people that jumped into action to cover my classes, managers and colleagues at Gymbox. My mum was sick with a chest infection, but treated me with myo-fascia release, after I dragged myself across London to see her. Then the London Chiropractic centre came to my rescue and booked me in to be seen that evening.
My chiropractor told me I was in a mess, it was a bad state, but could be worse, my chin could have been stuck to my chest. He did what he could but there was so much spasm and inflammation he couldn't really tell what was going on with my discs. After another chiropractic treatment 5 days later and and x-ray (awaiting results) I should have an idea, physiologically about what it going on.
Emotionally I have figured out what was going on (with the help of my very patient, loving partner). Around the time of my daughters birth (Februray) I feel the remembered feelings of the vulnerability of pregnancy, the pain of labour, and the reluctant mental toughness (I thought I had to develop) to get through it all. That toughness meant I had closed my heart (emotions) up in a box and buried it deep, so that outwardly I could be strong and fearless, and not need anybody, not need help. The truth is we all need each other very much. The human NEED for connection, when met through friendships and relationships, is what keeps us alive. I thought to NEED to was be a burden on others. So I have always experienced this internal sruggle, with not wanting to be a burden on anybody, and really needing help.
Along comes my unconcious mind (my body) to battle against my subconcious mind (and cries out for help in a way that I can't ignore....
I'm trying to figure this out still , so bare with me as I attempt to get this right:
Those of us that experience stress and truama early in childhood become programmed with a high level of cortisol, the stress hormone, and can easily get stressed as and adult. Stressful situations turn on the release of adrenalin, the fight or flight hormone. When we find activities that release endorphins (exercise, sex, food, drugs, dancing, anything described as a 'rush' or a 'high') we can become dependent on that activity for the feel good factor/stress relief they bring to us temporarily, to counter act the adrenalin fuelled stressful existence of daily life. The problem with using adrenalin to fuel us is that there is a BIG come down afterwards, we feel like crap as our body tries to recover, and we end up exhausting our adrenal glands (burn out!)
I have had 3 burnouts within the last 7 years. I could be described as an "all or nothing" kind of gal. I tend not to do things by halves: either I don't do them at all or I find it hard to know when enough is enough.
I'm lucky that I seem to have a 'can do' attitude, but when I looked into the space of my heart chakra, the truth was sad. I looked deeply inward, and I saw me, I was very young, not sure how young exactly, but I'll be brave and just say it: as young as a new born. I was born into a house with a two-year old sister having tantrums, a depressed dad, and a mum working like crazy to hold a family together. Two years later another baby arrived, then another baby was due to arrive but it wasn't to be. Mum would have had 4 kids under 5, whilst also being the sole earner. I arrived after a miscarriage, who would have been my brother (I met him, he also lives in me.) If my brother had been, I probably wouldn't, so he gave me my chance at life.
During the meditation on my heart chakra I looked deeper & deeper, and as far back as I could see there was baby Hester who believed she wasn't going to get any help from anybody, that she was a child among many, and had to do things on her own. She felt inconsequential, unwanted, not worthy of attention, one among many. Baby Hester thought she shouldn't make a fuss, should be independent, but was also often filled with frustration. During my meditation I also met old lady Hester. She was good. She was great actually, she was wise, she had survived, she knew exactly who she was and what she was made of. She knew how to help people, she knew how to bring people together, and she had a comfortable, friendly, welcoming home. It felt really wonderful to meet her.
My yoga teacher talked to us about our 'shit' that sits there, its our pain and trauma and the place it sits, in yogic tradition, is called the heart chakra. So what do we do with it? We use it to fuel us, it can be the food of our fire. My yoga teacher told me soon after we met I was too much fire, not enough water, and too much fire enevitably burns out.
We chanted a mantra that gradually got faster and faster and faster, with such intensity, that after it ended, there was that feeling after climax, bliss.
We hadn't even practiced any asanas yet!
The practice began, and its quite exploratory (reminds me sometimes of authentic movement & experiential anatomy) at one point we were doing mountain climbers and I was sprinting, sprinting, sprinting, then as clear as a bell ringing, this thought appeared "Hester, what are you trying to prove? Who are you proving it to?" and I rested. I just let go. I stopped. And it was ok.
All through the practice that day I felt immense gratitude for my family, Dickon & Wren. I felt lighter, freer, I felt overwhelming love.
The first thing I did was decide to shave off the things I didn't need in my life. I went home and started sorting clothes I don't need, I decided to cut back on teaching. I cooked dinner when I got home (never ever cook). I hugged my family.
Later in the week I went through my classes with an open heart, less stress, I was tired, but I didn't stress, I put less pressure on my self. I taught a Balates training to a room bursting full of ballet & pilates teachers (it was nerve-wracking) I let go of the feeling of having to do things right, of proving myself, and at the end of class I was overwhelmed by the love, the support, the hugs & hugs, and more hugs (lucky me!!) and the thankyous.
The same day I taught all my classes, each very different in discipline, with an openess, no judgement on myself, and again was overwhelmed by the thankyous. Receiving a thank you, and really accepting it, not deflecting it, was like nectar.
Next morning, early, early start, a beautiful pink sky, little kindnesses from people like holding doors or offering their help. And there was a packed class, waiting for their 07.15 Frame Fitness workout. My theme was twists. Twisting is so important for the health and strength of our spine, it recruits many deep layers of muscles, and connecting muscle trains. Its like ringing out the bad stuff. Spinal twists squeeze the internal organs, helping to stimulate the organs by massaging, applyng pressure & then release. Twists (spirals) help us to detox, unwind, and balance out places where we feel tight or stuck. My frame fitness fanatics wouldn't have known that while working out we were also getting an internal workout. They all worked hard. Their sweaty, smiliing faces, and the thank you, thank you, thank yous at the end were absolutely lovely.
One of my ideas since my back spasmed, was that I need to do less and will therefore have to teach less. Its true that I can't stand at the front and give orders, I am very physical in classes, demonstrating, correcting, motivating. My yoga teacher says that teachers radiate like a sun, and that in a class you give (like the sun to its solar system) energy to your students. I love teaching. I love the connection, like a butterfly effect, my positive experiences bring a good energy to my classes, which the members take and give to their colleagues and family, who then pass it on, and on, and on. I see teaching as a massive privilege and a massive responsibility. In the past, I have known what to do, but didn't know quite how to consistently deliver a successful class. It was like a mythical thing, intangible, and would sometimes be there and sometimes wouldn't. Our energies can be very subtle, and just like stress accumulates in our bodies, manifesting into an expression of stress (injury, abcess, depression), so too can bliss manifest into acts of kindness, compassion, health, and wellness. My worry is that if I teach less, I won't feel as happy (self-confessed exercise addict here too!) and I worry I'll get on a low and feel crap. Aha! That is my subconcious web of anxieties floating up to ensnare me with doubt and fear. The truth is, everything is ok. And being kind to myself, looking after myself, is the same as looking after all of us. Its a group effort because we need to look after ourselves, so we can look after each other.
The subtleties of the heart chakra flow in an energetic direction (different chakras have different winds or direction) and this one is circulation, its all directions. If we all have open hearts, then by the very nature of being human, we'll feel connected to one another, know that we are not alone, know that we are not a burden, and know that we coexist harmoniously with everything around us. From one action, ripples go out that change all of us, and can change the whole course mankind is on.
I opened my heart chakra, and that process of letting go has given me more love for myself, which means I can love everything around me. How great it that?!
I zoned out at home after Frame Fitness, with my girl (who has a fever) and as she was too ill for school, she watched a film while I fell in and out of a slightly fevered sleep (kids are germ magnets), and we had lots of cuddles. We share the same DNA (that obvious) but really that means her cells are in me and mine are in her, like visitors, in each others body, helping each other out. So perhaps to bring this ramble round to a point, being human is a painful process, that pain is what lets us know we're alive, and how we use that pain is transformative, extrordinary, and divine.