In 2002, I was 33 and living in The Philippines in Davao, a city in the southern province of Mindanao. I’d been hired to work as a personal trainer at a gym in a local hotel, guiding the management of my friend’s father’s company, but was living a double-sided life; encouraging others to improve their health, but quite often neglecting my own. The external semblance of fitness I carried from my workouts belied my smoking, drinking and poor dietary habits –the tools I’d long relied upon to cope with life’s day-to-day stresses would soon prove themselves to be utterly futile.
Late in the same year, approaching the holiday season, I suddenly fell ill and was hospitalised with a debilitating fever of 106C. The doctors diagnosed a viral infection, treatable with antibiotics. This might have come as a relief, were it not for the fact that my stay revealed much more damaging news about my health. While attempting to recouperate in a wholly flattened yet somehow still bumpy hospital bed, I began to experience agonising pains in my lower back, which shot like flames down the hind of my legs and made my already unhappy sojourn much more miserable. Scans revealed that I was the proud owner of a herniated disc, between my L4 and L5 vertebrae – I can recall looking at the x-ray, at the bizarre angle at which the two bones of my spine rested and thinking to myself, “This is really, really wrong.”
Fortunately, the care of my employer found me resting my way back to a reasonable semblance of health, but even after my return to Canada in 2003, after quitting smoking in 2004 and severely curtailing my drinking, the back problem would still rear its ugly head with periodic and entirely unwanted frequency.
I’d pretty much resigned myself to living a life with sporadic pain, being laid-up for days on end and ever cautious about how I could and couldn’t move my body. Then yoga and I met one another.
Fast forward a decade and you have the full wheel pose in the photo above. Reversing the damage I’d inflicted on myself via poor lifestyle choices and a lack of understanding of my own physical, emotional and spiritual makeup was a long and arduous process. My first year of practice was spent doing nothing but restorative work – I now love to relate to others how I would be resting on my back on a soft blanket on my mat, my legs draped over a folding chair to help release the lumbar and sacral areas in my back, with tears streaming down my face as I finally learned to breathe and let go.
That healing breath has taken me far. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where it takes me next.