Yoga is the Best Medicine.

Molgolian Steppes

Molgolian Steppes

I started doing yoga in the late l960s. I liked the way I felt after stretching my body. I liked the idea of saluting the sun, too. After all, it gives us light and warmth, not to mention we wouldn’t exist without it. I agreed with the Incas back then, and still do today, that the sun is the ultimate God.

I  give yoga much of the credit for my good health. I don’t know exactly what’s happening in the Ruby interior,  but I know I don’t have arthritis,  knee or hip problems,  and that I’m

comfortable sitting in the Chinese wait-in-line-squat indefinitely.

In the early 1970s, I was overwhelmed with my life. I was depressed and lonely even though I was living what I had been told was

Our horseman & Rowdy

Our horseman & Rowdy

the American Dream in the upscale suburbs of Chicago. One day I happened upon Lillas, Yoga, and You on PBS. Lillas was a vision. She seemed to have a strength inside her that I needed. I began spending thirty minutes each morning with Lillas, doing yoga poses and breathing deeply. For  that 30 minutes,  I forgot my troubles and the ones in the world around me. I stretched and breathed, breathed and stretched. Little by little, my body became more supple, my mind clearer, my heart healthier.

Mostly the benefits of yoga sneak up on you, but two episodes happened to me  in the past few years that showed the obvious and immediate examples of yoga medicine.

The first one occurred when I was in a hotelimage in Madrid, Spain. I rolled out of bed one morning, and was so dizzy I could not stand erect. As the room spun around me, I pulled myself into the p

ose of the child, and took deep breaths. Within a few minutes, the spinning stopped. I got to my knees, then hanging onto the bed, I stood up. I pulled my body into the tree pose. One arm raised above me, I put one foot on my inner thigh, raised my head, and breathed deeply. I changed sides, still holding on to the bed. The vertigo abated. Within a few days of yoga poses for balance: tree, half-moon, and balancing butterfly, it had disappeared completely.

A few years ago, I was galloping across the steppes of Mongolia on a horse I affectionately called Rowdy Brown. Suddenly, I felt a searing pain in my back. I slumped forward onto Rowdy’s neck. Clammy sweat poured from me as I clung to him while breathing deep cleansing breaths.  I was in the middle of nowhere. Truly. The guide came up alongside me to see what the problem was. There were three others in my group, all good riders. We had all come a long way for this experience.They did not want to be slowed down by me.

I lay on Rowdy’s neck, walking far behind the others until lunch time. The hard part was to keep him from running. He didn’t need to  be the last horse, but he sure did not want to be last. When the lunch car finally arrived,  I dismounted. Someone gave me a couple of extra strength pain killers. I pulled myself into the pose of the child, my knees under me, my head on the ground, my arms along my sides. I declined the suggestion that I go to the hospital, but, when it was time for the lunch man to leave, I realized I had no choice but to ride  along with him. 

For three days I took pain killers, and rode in the car with the meal/camping man. Rowdy. ran along with the guide and his horse. Each night  I returned with him  to camp. After he pitched my tent,  I crawled into it and did yoga stretches. Each morning  my back pain had lessened. On the fourth day, I was back in the saddle.

The three people I started out with left to ride into the mountains. Four new folks showed up. None of them were experienced riders, so nobody was in a hurry. We mosied over the steppes, conversing and looking at the scenery. Every morning and evening I stretched my back: the cat, the pigeon, the sphinx, the hamstring stretch.

That was three years ago. I still have occasional back pain after sitting at my desk for too long. When that happens I get down on the floor. I breathe, stretch,  breathe stretch. Ahhh. Powerful yoga medicine.