Tuning in to others

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I can’t emphasize how important yoga has been to me over the past few years. Not only has yoga helped me manage my multiple sclerosis, it has calmed my mind, nurtured my spirit, brought new and wonderful friends into my life, and made me physically stronger and more flexible. It has also made me more empathetic; I am much more tuned in to other people than I was before I started practicing.

Nowadays I teach a couple of yoga classes each week at the small studio a few miles down the road. Before each class I ask my students whether there’s anything going on in their bodies, any injuries, weaknesses, or tight spots I should be aware of.

Turns out everyone has something. An aching lower back, a tight shoulder, a stiff neck, tense hip joints, a touch of arthritis resulting from a long-ago surgery…. As I listen, I think about what stretches or poses we’ll do to address those problems; yoga has much to offer to those with such ailments. But as I listen I also feel a certain kind of tenderness for my students and fellow yogis: They are so human, and even the strongest of them have weaknesses, vulnerabilities, soft spots.

It’s a great feeling to lead a class and hear students say, after everyone rises from the final resting pose we call savasana, “Wow. I feel so much better.” Some will come up to me to report that one particular posture or stretch really made their hip or their shoulder or back feel better, or that the whole practice had eased their tension and loosened their muscles.

Teaching yoga has helped me get out of my own head and recognize that you don’t need to have multiple sclerosis to have aches and pains. MS or no MS, we’re all in this together. When we muster the ability to sympathize with and help others, we also end up strengthening ourselves.
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Jennifer LaRue Huget, Blogger

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is www.jenniferlaruehuget.com.