Happy February, yogis! We’re almost through this!
February has us here at MYD thinking about how we can be more accessible to our community. For all our teachers, being available to students before and after a class is a huge priority. One sunny morning last week, I had a chance to speak to teacher Amanda Montgomery about the difficult new health challenges she’s facing, and how they’ve changed her practice and her classes.
“It began in Costa Rico” says Amanda, referring to her journey back to peace of mind after her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in November. She’d been dealing with severe pain when she met a naturopath on a healing retreat, and they’ve been working on Amanda’s condition ever since. “At the studio people are hyper-aware of how the teacher is moving,” says Amanda. By November she was dealing with a full blown flare. It was awkward and painful, and there were lots of questions. Her attack had come on so quickly and acutely that it left Amanda and her family feeling very vulnerable and afraid.
Suddenly she was unable to take comfort in her daily yoga practice. “I went mat-free for 3 months.” There was just too much pain getting down to the floor for Amanda, her first flare had completely engulfed her body. Savasana wasn’t possible because it was absolute hell to get there. Her mat no longer welcomed her. “I’d taken the physicality of my practice for granted,” she says, noting the frustration of being unable to practice yoga she needed it most.
Looking to avoid some of the inevitable questions about her health Amanda visited another yoga studio while her flare was in full effect. “I need to be around people when I’m feeling scared and uncertain. (That experience)…brought me such clarity. All of a sudden I was that student who was embarrassed that I couldn’t get into the next pose. I felt like I had to apologize to the teacher.” It made her think about the students with their own physical limitations that she had taught in her own classes, “I hadn’t realized what a vulnerable experience that could be.”
For Amanda, dealing with her flare meant it was time to slow down and change up her practice. “I started my new routine sitting in a chair, trying to bring my arms up and down, inhale and exhale.” Getting curious about the external and internal factors that contributed to her condition, she tinkered with her diet and worked on get a deeper understanding of her emotional relationship with pain. “It’s an exercise in compassion. I’m pretty good at acknowledging my feelings, but I typically I acknowledge them, and then I move on. This disease forces me to stay ‘in it.’” She acknowledges that this can be a very humbling experience.
I asked Amanda about her message to students at MYD who are dealing with limited mobility, or fearing that they will spend the entire class in savasana. She laughs, “I always say, the sooner you get into savasana, the sooner you get a massage! In fact, it’s the sure-fire way to guarantee yourself a massage!” Above all else Amanda wants to impart one thing: “People come to their mat to feel better. So whatever your limitations or challenges are, just show up. Do what you can, there is no judgement. Come feel the support of your community. And most importantly, let us take care of you.”
Thanks for inspiration Amanda, and namaste y’all.