Taking Root to Fly: a perspective on Yoga as Therapy
By Elizabeth Emberly, co-founder of Montreal’s Naada Yoga School
“Do not use the body to get into the poses, use the poses to get into the body.”
Yoga is traditionally considered a solitary activity that is inherently therapeutic. While that is generally true, Yoga’s explosion in the West has made it difficult to pinpoint what Yoga is. With the recent invention of aberrations like Goat Yoga, it is difficult to comprehend just how far our current day definitions are willing to go.
I am often curious about an individual’s motives for beginning Yoga and then what it is that maintains one’s engagement long term. For me, like many, Yoga began as a series of fast paced movement exercises organized in a systematic fashion that left me feeling elated and motivated to repeat the regime rather militantly. These exercises were typically practiced in a group class situation where the teacher dictated the specific movements and everyone responded in unison and sometimes even to the beat of the current top 40’s hits. Now this is not to say this doesn’t qualify as Yoga, as Yoga is defined by the eye of the beholder, but I do think it is important to ask ourselves at some point: am I trying to fit my body into the framework of Yoga or is it possible that my Yoga practice can be more molded to me.
While group classes provide an excellent foundation and sense of community, the disciplined Yogi will eventually hit a glass ceiling and feel the dampening effects of reaching that plateau. It is at this point that one’s practice needs individualization in order to continue the journey down the rabbit hole of self-realization.
For a long-time I have been attracted to one on one therapies like osteopathy and massage therapy, so it was natural that I went searching for someone who could help me one on one with my Yoga practice. What I found was an assortment of movement therapies that were offered by individuals defining for themselves what Yoga meant for them. I learned a great deal from the many distinct therapists but what I discovered most was that Yoga presented an opportunity to explore my inner self, so that I could free myself from my own bondage and live wholly as myself.
It is difficult to say if I would have come to this same realization had I stuck only to group classes. My opinion is that I wouldn’t have. My teacher taught me that the root of the Sanskrit word guru comes from the Latin word gravitas and is why guru is sometimes translated into English as “heavy”. My personal journey of awareness has led me to conclude that the solitary and therapeutic aspects of Yoga are highlighted when an individual turns one’s attention inwards in search of her own inner guru. As one moves into one’s awareness of her own being, a person becomes deeply rooted in her interrelationship to the earth and thus able to fly into a limitless sky of higher consciousness.
Elizabeth is the co-founder of Montreal’s Naada Yoga School. A certified Ashtanga Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist, Elizabeth brings to yoga a deep sense of individual and creative expression. She has studied extensively with yoga teachers such as Dharma Mittra, Richard Rosen, Rodney Yee, Mary Paffard, Mark Singleton, Francois Raoult and Ann Dyer. She is a graduate of Concordia University’s Dance and Choreography program and blends together twenty-five years of dance and somatics with Yoga.