A lesson in deep listening

Hilary Lindsay

Hilary Lindsay

In the mid-eighties, before I practiced yoga regularly, I often sought the help of a chiropractor for a chronically stiff neck which was the result of a skewed pelvis.

I awoke one day with paralysis. I couldn’t lift my head from the pillow, could not turn my head. My husband got me out of bed and I was able to get dressed and ride with him to the chiropractor who told me there was nothing amiss in my spine. He suggested I have a session with a fellow who was doing a new kind of therapy based on yoga and offered no further explanation.

Open to learning new modalities of healing but somewhat suspicious of a yoga therapy that would correct a phantom spinal problem; I agreed to meet the fellow in the office the next day.

I was greeted by a white haired fellow with a quiet demeanor who also gave little explanation other than he would assist me in some yoga postures.

At the time I was a dance teacher who inserted yoga postures into a balletic form. I was fit and extremely flexible. I thought I was very much in command of my body. It seemed ludicrous that this man who reminded me of the character Peter Sellers played in “Being There”, an innocent simpleton could offer me anything and I was slightly annoyed.

He assisted me through a series of postures and with each posture he asked me how I felt. Then he repeated my words back to me. He urged me to come up with more than the first description. He kept repeating what I offered. It seemed ridiculous.

As I remember it, when the session was over, he asked me how it went, wished me luck and said goodbye and not much more. I was dumbfounded. What was that! I wasn’t pleased with the chiropractor who set me up for this.

But I did consider the session. And was hit hard and suddenly with a realization about what had happened. I had just been offered a physiological map of my behavior that explained why my body had
refused to move.

Every pose that was easy had been described with words like, “stupid, unimportant and worthless”.

Every pose that challenged me was described with words like “necessary or important”.

I never went back. My frozen spine had already resolved more or less before I got there and I felt fine but more than that, I understood what my body was communicating. I have never forgotten that message. It is as vital today as it was 25 years ago. I am hard on myself. If I’m not suffering, if I can’t FEEL, then I am invalid. So I beat myself up. My body begs me to listen. And I do. I have not forgotten.

At a time when yoga was still a sleepy practice that held no attachments to brands or stars or money. I was lucky enough to have an experience with nothing to influence my impression. I believe my yoga therapist’s name was Mike. The name of the therapy was Phoenix Rising. Mike was not a star and
certainly not the face of yoga that would grace a modern magazine but his gift was as great as any I’ve received since.

Yoga is ultimately about simplicity anyway. It’s about unraveling or undoing to get to ourselves. The Phoenix Rising session made me, and continues to makes me, aware that I need to strip away armor
which holds me to patterns and behavior that may have served me at one time but are no longer appropriate. I revisit this lesson again and again.

Like many yogis, I can do strong physical work. I have mastered many complicated postures. I meditate. I have knowledge of history and philosophy. But these things added to a being who is fettered with
baggage can just add to the baggage. There is more than one way to clear the patterns that no longer serve us. The psycho-analytical profile I saw in myself thanks to that session came at a time that I needed a clear and immediate call to action.

The truest essence of my yoga experience continues to be letting go of what doesn’t serve me. Though I have placed many people in my life to remind me of this, they are a resonance of that first, pure,experience.

Hilary Lindsay has created yoga programs for corporations, choreographed videos for celebrity clients, works one on one with high profile clients, teaches comprehensive yoga classes for children, empowering classes for teens, and inspired instruction for adults. She has been covered by popular magazines and television shows and continues to work for a variety of publications as a yoga expert.

Hilary is a E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and she is a certified 2nd degree Reiki practitioner. For more details visit her web site or her blog.

2 CommentsAdd a Comment »

2 Responses to A lesson in deep listening

  1. Patty Silver says:

    Oh, so true… Our body resonates with our thoughts and words – they can either
    free our body or bind it with rigidity. Tremendous sharing – Thank you for this most important teaching/reminder!

    • Thanks for reading, Patty. Our body reveals what the mind isn’t ready to see. That’s what makes Hatha yoga such a vibrant practice. Where asana and pranayama may seem to be a relatively small part of what we call yoga, it is actually quite important as there we can fully experience what might otherwise simply be an intellectual understanding.

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