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What the Atma Center Means to One Student

I came to the Atma Center with perhaps more physical limitations than most and less than some. I was unable to practice yoga in a traditional manner on a mat. Nor could I master transitions of movement from standing to sitting to lying down. etc. It was very difficult to attend class where most had so much more muscle strength, flexibility and agility than I. I was fearful, anxious, scared and felt different from others. All these feelings caused me to give off vibrations of being pretty unapproachable. The staff had an extraordinary sensitivity and awareness to this and was very respectful of it. They always followed my lead and never pushed me. They started with me where I was at in my development, both on a feeling level and a physical level.

One day the student teacher who always helped me to physically get into position and secure my props, smiled at me and said, "You are most welcome here." His sensitive approach to me daily began my slow interaction with the staff. I felt very comfortable asking him questions and he would help by demonstrating physical movements that I was eventually able to master. He would do this with me before class. The barriers I had erected between me and the help that the staff could offer slowly began to evaporate. They sensed that I was becoming more available to their help and gently offered it. They were always respectful of my lead and my amount of readiness, never pushing me but slowly teaching me movements while accommodating my limitations without ever embarrassing me or making me feel less than.

I began to enjoy the modifications and was having fun with yoga. My confidence and comfort level began to increase to the point where I asked about the possibility of having a therapeutic session privately. My goal was to get down on the mat and low and behold my teacher had me doing that with a reasonable amount of physical comfort in one session. I also complained a lot of back and leg pain. She helped me enormously suggesting and practicing with me movements to strengthen my legs and back and worked on my posture with me, giving me much greater awareness of my posture which helped with the pain in more ways than I can outline here. I was now on my way. I asked for private lessons coupled with my regular classes. Now I am doing most of what all the other students in class can do. Perhaps not as well and what seems to come to them with ease, I have to work at very diligently and assiduously. My body does not cooperate easily with my mind because of my physical limitations and my lack of muscle memory. I am grateful that my teacher hangs in there with me and encourages and supports me. She helps enormously with the setting of realistic goals and paces my progress. Sometimes now I can even catch my own mistakes.

I would be very remiss if I did not share how sensitive the staff was and is to my accomplishments. They are always mine and never do I sense or feel an attitude of "look at what we have done for her." It is as if I have the keys to the car and am in the driver's seat and they in the passenger seat, gently noting that the light is green, or I need to yield here or change course/direction. It is like having my own human GPS. I now feel the freedom to raise my hand in class when I have a question or am stuck in a pose and above all I am enjoying my mastery of some of the yoga practices. The staff always takes me"back" a bit. They can have a class of 30 people in front of them and yet they relate to each person in the class individually as if there is a unique awareness what that person can handle and what style of relating will speak to that individual student. No student at the Atma center is a faceless number. All my teachers are different with unique personalities, but there is one common thread that runs among them and that is their investment in each student. We can rent their time, but we could never rent their investment in us, the depth of their knowledge/skill,
and sensitivity/compassion toward each of us.

There are days that are very difficult for me in terms of the sadness and grief I feel at the loss of the command of my body, especially when I look at the agility/flexibility of my fellow classmates. I wonder if I would ever advance to a B foundation. One day, as happens often, I lost my concentration dwelling on what I could not do and my feelings of loss. It was as if the teacher leading the class sensed what was happening with me and told a story, giving a delightful analogy. She said you know when you are training a puppy to stay and he moves away, you go get him and bring him back to you and you repeat the process several times with the puppy. When you lose concentration, bring the puppy back and stay in the present. At the end of that same class, she spoke about advancement and going into higher levels or foundations, noting that you could stay in A foundation for the rest of your life and make much progress because of the ability to refine and mature your movements and increase your level of awareness... She asked, "Does a musician ever stop practicing his scales?" I finally got what Yoga is really about.

I do not know how much progress I can make or how much I will regain. No one does. I will have to come to grips with that uncertainty or unknown. I am sure that there will be both regressions and progressions. One thing I do know is that the staff will be there for me every inch of the way. In the meantime, I am just going to keep on bringing that puppy back and practicing my scales.

~ Anonymous

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