As a later in life yogi and more recently a yoga teacher, I have come to appreciate the challenges our bodies can pose in the mind-body union we seek when we come to our mats. Difficult to quiet the mind when the body is screaming about tightness and not being able to find an expression of an asana our egos find acceptable. When I was younger, I hardly gave any thought to the flexibility, strength and resilience I relied upon in other physical pursuits – golf, swimming, dancing, hiking, tennis. Had I been open to trying yoga back then, I probably would have taken for granted the fleeting gift of ease of movement, and like many, I would have assumed I’d always be able to move so fluidly. But, as I’ve come to develop a yoga practice in my 40s, I am reminded on a regular basis that my body needs care and an understanding of its limitations. Of course that is part of yoga’s lesson – accepting and finding peace in the place we find ourselves.
Personally, the timing of getting into yoga was perfect for me. I was beginning to suffer chronic low back pain resulting from the realization of a childhood dream of owning a horse of my own. (I am now a caretaker for four of the lazy bums). A regular client of a both chiropractor and a massage therapist, I struggled to find a point where I could ride as much as a wanted - and lift as many hay bales and heavy feed buckets as my horses wanted - without having my back pay the price.
Yoga has helped immensely in strengthening my core (which includes the low back muscles) and improving my body awareness when I ride, which has transformed how I ride. But, yoga did not initially rid me of pain. In fact, there were times that it only caused additional discomfort. As my learning dove deeper, I shifted my practice to include more kind and gentle styles of yoga – Yin, Restorative, Svaroopa – rather than so much striving to be able to take that Power class I thought I “should” be able to do.
Part of the shift for me was acceptance of where I am. Yes, I still challenge myself and seek to find a new edge of my capabilities. But I am also up for the challenge of letting go, diving deeper in a longer held asana in search of places I can soften, sitting with the tension until it gradually releases. I have found that there is where I can be present and connected with who I am in the moment.
At the same time as my love for Yin yoga grew, I had the opportunity to train with Sue Hitzmann, creator of the MELT Method. Both Yin and MELT address the system in our bodies that other forms of movement/exercise do not – our connective tissue, or fascia. We spend so much time keeping our muscles in shape when it’s our fascia that instructs our muscles to move. Not only that, but connective tissue holds the injuries we sustain when we overdo it in power yoga, on the treadmill or in a zumba class. The connective tissue system will lay down extra collagen to support our weaknesses and as we age, that extra help lingers, making us more rigid and less mobile. With no way to address this aging of our connective tissue, injuries keep us sidelined for longer and longer periods of time, leaving us feeling older physically than we feel mentally.
Fortunately, scientific advances in the study of connective tissue over the past decade lead Sue to identify the need for us to take control of the care of our connective tissue. The MELT tools she developed are uniquely designed to gently rehydrate our connective tissue system, body-wide. A simple protocol taking as little as 10 minutes a day, MELT can help release the stress of physical injuries as well as the emotional stress we carry in our bodies. It is truly the missing link in self-care.
By working MELT into your daily routine along with a variety of physical activities – our bodies are designed for diversity rather than repetition – you can enjoy better timing and accuracy in any movement, from weightlifting to running to golf, with less risk of injury due to poor timing. While MELT is not the fountain of youth, it can help your body perform more like you used to back when we were fillies and colts and keep you from feeling like you’re ready to be turned out to pasture. In yoga, you will flow from asana to asana with more fluidity and less risk of strain. You may find, as I have, that your body is no longer an obstacle to uniting mind, body and spirit.
Check out the Bright Yoga Events schedule for my next MELT Intro Class using the Hand & Foot Kit.