When Francisco Kaiut asked Sandra to walk around the room last month in Toronto. We all watched this little wonderwoman strut her stuff. As she walks, her scoliosis (curvature) of the spine is quite obvious. There is a tilting of the hips to one side and she has a kind of uneven gait.
And for 84 years old, it's not bad.
At 84 years old many people her age can't walk around a room. Can't get up and down from sitting or lying on the floor. Can't walk up and down stairs. Many people at that age have lost mobility.
And why do we lose mobility?
We tend to be programmed into thinking that it's because of old age. In our mind, we broad brush stroke our body with fate, karma, genes and inevitability across the later years of our life. It's just what happens.
But actually, we lose mobility because we never face the restrictions in our body. We think once we've lost that movement it has gone. We tighten up our mind, our hearts and our bodies. If we have a fall, or injury, we tighten up in our shoulders or hips, we then start to use that joint differently. We tighten up our mind, saying we no longer can use that joint in the same way. We use other parts of our body to compensate, then they start to be used unevenly. Then because we are not using the injured joint we eventually become unable to use it. Then when we try and use it, it hurts. So we tell ourselves we shouldn't. We do everything we can to avoid the pain. To protect ourselves and to feel safe. And when we are afraid of the pain that comes with the movement, we avoid that movement. This is the cycle that is often a slow but steady decline into old age.
And this is not just with injuries. It comes from sitting in chairs for too much. It comes from using one hand to hold a phone in one position for hours on end. From peering into a computer screen everyday. For any kind of repetative action we do hundreds of thousands of times, over months, years and decades.
Picture Sandra a year ago. September 2017. She started the yoga training age 83. We remembered her well. For a lot of that first module of the training she was in a chair. She was unable to do a lot of the postures. And yet, she was diligent and dedicated to do what she could do. She also believed it was possible.
She then started her own home practice. She now says she does an hour a day every day. What Sandra did was learnt to face her restrictions. She still says "Francisco, I've got a problem..." to which he will reply "Sandra - you have no problems..." you see, he knows the biggest challenge is the mind thinking there might be a problem.
Sandra has overcome her mind. She doesn't believe she can't do things any more. She is more than willing to try. She has stepped firmly away from the woman she arrived at the yoga training in 2017 as the woman who can't, and stepped fully into being the woman who can.
She has learnt to move WITH the restrictions. She has used her intention and will to bring movement into areas of her spine and hips, areas of her shoulders, elbows, neck and ankles and feet that she didn't feel possible.
When Sandra takes a position she doesn't force herself into it. She goes with the restrictions, not against them. She is not trying to straighten her spine. She is just following the simple instructions for each posture that we are given.
Over time, and with repetition (in Sandra's case for over a year) she has allowed her brain to re-wire around her restrictions. The brain no longer has a body map that includes the same restrictions. She has gone deeper and deeper into each posture that she can. Without force or violence, but at the same time with some effort and willingness to face the sensations that are needed to be faced in order to allow the release necessary to get new mobility.
And amazingly, when Sandra takes a full relaxation pose on her front. When her body can meet the ground, what now happens in this position is that the spine curvature doesn't present itself. This is the first step in the journey to release. Sandra may well have a scoliosis of the spine (most of us do to a greater or lesser degree) for the rest of her life. But we can see here that it's not always going to be there in every posture she takes. Indeed when she is fully relaxed there is no visible restriction. This means the energy is flowing in the body unhindered and she can get the full benefits of relaxing and restoring the parasympathetic nervous system.
Sandra's curvature of the spine is no longer a problem that is growing, it is a situation that is diminishing.
Sandra has not aged in the past year of doing Kaiut Yoga. She has not lost any more mobility, in fact she is more mobile now that she was a year ago.
She is a perfect example of a Kaiut Yogi who approaches their body with awareness, kindness, a sense of humour and does her practice every day. I'm very grateful that she gave me permission to share the photos and her story here.