HomeBlogThe Healing Journey, Part 3

The Healing Journey – Part 3

By Tara McGee, MSW, RSW, Dip TIRP Psychotherapist, OCSWSSW Yoga Therapist, IAYT

Remaining dedicated, focused and moving in the “right” direction can be difficult to do especially on our own. When I went to India to study yoga, the way the class was run was that there were at least 100 people in the class with waves of students piling in after I was done my practice. Each student had been given a yoga practice by their teacher, they had memorized the practice and were all doing the yoga practice to the best of their ability at their own pace. The teachers would circulate around the class adjusting people’s postures, adding or subtracting postures to practices, and developing relationships with the students. Because everyone came daily, and the teachers were interacting with them rather than leading the class, the teachers were able to get to know everyone. Yoga is relationship and the student/teacher relationship is an essential aspect of this. 

I remember one pivotal moment in my practice and relationship with my teacher. When I first got to India I could not go into or hold headstand at all. When it came to this part of my practice I had to skip it or just stay in the preparatory pose. One of the teachers (Sharath Jois) became aware of this and every day he would come over to my mat when I was setting up for the pose and he would assist me to come into headstand and stay there. He was dependable and was always there to catch my feet when they flew up into the air. Even in a class of over 100 people, he knew to make his way to me and when. One day, he didn’t show up. That was the day I was able to move into headstand on my own and to confidently hold the pose. At the end of the class when I went to thank him, he said in a very excited tone, “You did it!” He was watching and he knew when I was ready for him to step away – he was attuned. That built my confidence in myself, and in the idea that practice, with support, and all is coming (Pattabhi Jois). 

The point I am trying to make is that I believe that healing requires guidance from a person who is more advanced than you in the modality and their own healing journey. It requires guidance from a person you can develop a relationship with over a long period of time so that they can get to know you, attune to you and assist you to develop where you need to. It requires a community to support you to keep moving even when it is boring, feels hopeless or you feel inadequate to keep going. In Western culture, our healing practices are held inside this space of privacy, isolation, shame and hiding from everyone else. So many people try to get healing from random snippets they see on YouTube or go to various classes, never getting to know their teacher. But to me, this is not the healing journey, this is a superficial grasping at straws that is not in the “right direction, for a long time, with devotion and enthusiasm” or with the right relationship to self or to a teacher.  

The Importance of Cultivating the Use of Self

The relationship is so important because a teacher who is attuned can act as a mirror, reflecting all aspects of ourselves, even those we cannot see ourselves and might prefer not to. They can then use this observation to create practices to help us move into the parts of us we cannot see or that we want to avoid. This is where the healing is needed. Often, left to our own devices, we choose practices that align with our most predominant energy. For instance, if we have an A type personality, we will likely choose yoga classes that are strong energetically and difficult. However, someone who has an A type personality and is feeling stressed would likely need to balance this energy with more relaxation, softening, restoration and rest. They would not choose that practice on their own as they may feel it is too boring and unproductive, but if they had an advanced teacher, the teacher could develop a practice for them that would balance their constitution to reduce the tensions they create during their day. This would result in more balance and resolving of issues they may face that come from being too activated for too long. They would likely need support, encouragement and someone to hold the faith that this practice will help them, just as Sharath held the steady faith that I would one day achieve headstand with practice. This is what sparks the devotion and tenacity that is needed to persevere towards healing. 

A community of people devoted to their own healing can also provide powerful support to keep going. I practiced “Mysore” style Ashtanga yoga for 15 years – where students come to class during a window of time and do their own personal practice from memory. Walking into a Mysore room, generally early in the morning, where tens to hundreds of people were practicing, sweating, breathing rhythmically, focused and devoted, I would get hit with an energy that was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was an energy that would inspire my practice and my energy would become a part of the wave being generated by this collective of people on healing journeys. It was very powerful to begin every day in that room filled with rhythmic, energetic, heart-centred devotion of the community. It is something I miss sincerely since I moved out of Toronto and it is the vision I hold for the type of yoga/healing community I aspire to generate through CPYC. 


Check out the final part (Part 4) coming soon. Tara Tara