By Priya Kenney
It shouldn’t surprise me anymore. Yet I was shocked when Swamiji spoke to a deeply hidden part of me, something I work hard to keep subterranean. I arrived a day early for the Yoga Therapy Intensive Retreat, just in time for Swamiji’s birthday satsang. Near the end of her talk, she said it: “You have inherent value.”
Her words startled me. Unbelievable. Just by being human we have value. You mean, I’m not inherently bad? I work hard to mask shame-filled identities that de-value and dis-respect me. Those identities fill me with anxiety and take me out of my body.
I didn’t understand how much I wasn’t present in my body until the retreat. I became aware of all the armoring I’d put on to protect myself from traumatic events in my past. The layers hardened into life patterns and identities. They keep me from being fully alive and present in my body.
In my daily yoga therapy sessions, all I had to do was lie down and allow my body to sink into the blankets. I gratefully complied. It was like my body fell open, tensions simply dissolving. I felt incredibly cared for, supported and safe. I experienced the yoga therapists acting as Love Incarnate. They had neither attachment nor need for us to respond a certain way.
I surrendered to their confident placements of my body and questions in the vichara sessions. I sank in deeper. It was pure bliss. My body felt like warm, rising holiday bread. I was fully alive, floating in a timeless state of upliftment of body, mind and more.
Every day, Swamiji spent a lot of time with us. She chanted and meditated with us. After chanting Sri Guru Gita with her on the second morning, I experienced a big rounded opening in my chest during meditation. It was like a giant garage door opening out to Swamiji.
Swamiji also gave talks about healing, explaining the five sheaths and how they interweave. Because of this interweaving, it’s necessary to approach healing from several angles to effectively heal the multi-dimensionality of our being. Vichara and yoga therapy sessions heal mind and body. Meditating with the Guru and dipping into Self is the greatest healer of all.
One of my favorite poses has always been Supported Fish. I was very happy when my therapist put me in that pose. On the third day, she probably only adjusted my arms by a small amount, but it seemed like she moved them a good three feet. Exposure!
My first thought, after wanting to tuck back in and down, was that she must have made a mistake and didn’t position me right. It was fully intentional, and she didn’t move me back to “safety.” I don’t remember ever feeling my chest that open before. Never. It felt scary and daring. My mind flared up, looking for a way out of this predicament. Then I recognized that it was a safe environment. I knew the therapist wouldn’t hurt me. Her confident and nurturing presence gave me reassurance.
I allowed my chest to open. It felt as wide as a football field. Soon my head opened. My face released its protective front. Knots inside my head vanished. I still had a face, but it was no longer the fearful gatekeeper. While my identities were there still, they were background, not leading or defining me. They were like space debris floating around. They did not weigh me down or hold me back. The Self was primary, everything. I was wide open inside my body and beyond, infinite and blissfully expansive.
Back at home, I feel more open, less guarded. The personalized asana routine I received and my other practices bring me back to a new level of openness more quickly. I have deep gratitude for the Guru, the master door opener to self and Self. I am also grateful for the steady yoga therapists who helped me unravel layers that had limited my awareness of Guru and Self.