My Awakening Journey through Scoliosis

This is my final paper for my Embodied Flow™ Advanced 500RYT on my awakening journey. Please enjoy.

    As a young girl, I was engulfed in an ocean of insecurity. I grew into my womanly figure early, and developed poor posture as a way to hide my shape. During this time of significantly low confidence I was diagnosed with scoliosis, or an abnormal curvature of the spine. This disclosure seemed like a contract toward permanent disability. I made regular visits to the Hospital for Special Surgeries, where I received x-rays and MRI to assess whether my curvature moved into the realm of operable. Looming threat and chronic discouragement established fear and unrest within my body as it was. Maiya mala, the illusion of my separateness from others, became my norm, and I was thwarted into a realm of self hatred.

    At no point during my youth was I guided toward self exploration. What habits supported my spinal curvature? What kept surrounding musculature imbalanced? I only knew doctors in white coats who made fear based pronouncements of what could negatively develop. At no point was I told the pattern of scoliosis could change.

    During my late teens I began to practice yoga. As I yearned for a feeling of acceptance from others, my objective was to maintain as thin of a frame as possible: no curves allowed. My early practice was dominated by constant pining after the flexibility of yogis practicing elongated spinal twists. I felt pangs of grief when instructors counseled me to “straighten my spine”. Even as I made attempts to break bondage with suffering, I remained isolated and hopeless within my process. Yet on some level, I understood yoga could help me heal my relationship to my body.

    My yoga instructor at the time observed my struggle and offered his services in Integrated Thai Yoga Therapy. During the process, he positioned my body into releases and addressed emotional issues with an ease that brought forth noticeable shifts in my body. I experienced dramatic advancements in my healing process, yet the approach still left me relying on outside agents to heal. I remained in a devout practice of inner emotional pain and self abuse. I was accustomed to my body and mind as fundamentally separate. I did not yet understand how true healing occured by merging the parts of myself into a oneness of being.

Accord, New York

Accord, New York

    I was introduced to the idea that scoliosis could change during a discussion on Somatic Movement Therapy. I was shocked by the proposal and felt immediate resistance. To familiarize myself with the inner workings of my body enough to shift deeply ingrained patterns? The concept was radically unfamiliar, and seemingly an incredible amount of work. I did not know anyone who expressed the sensitive awareness I needed on a journey that would surely surface emotional and energetic blockages stored within. I buried the idea, and continued with yoga asana studio practice as the foundation of my self care routine. I never practiced privately. I avoided being alone with myself at all costs.

    During the beginning of my yoga practice and eventual instruction, I felt forced into verbal and physical adjustments without safe containers of adequate time, attention or compassionate reflection. This often led me to tighten and contract when any adjustment came my way. I longed for authentic encouragement towards a spacious, liberated experience within, which I remained both curious and fearful about.

   I became determined to experience, as well facilitate, presence awareness in flow. I received training in SomaVeda Integrated Traditional Therapies®, and and gained profound skill by way of Comprehensive and Traditional Thai Medicine. I regularly instructed Ashtanga yoga to a committed and supportive community, willing and ready for innovation. I was extremely skilled in cueing alignment, and always came up with sequencing that was dynamic and unique. Yet I still lacked a deeper understanding of what I was both practicing and teaching.

    I became stunted in my growth as a yoga teacher. I knew I needed more training for the sake of my students and sense of authenticity. When a series of synchronicities led me toward Embodied Flow™, I knew I had to the take the leap towards training within the system.

Paros, Greece

Paros, Greece

   My first Embodied Flow™ immersion was in Greece for a module entitled Body, where I dove into the uncharted, limitless landscape of my body. I developed a sense of my own internal systems and how they worked together. Maiya mala loosened its lifelong grip as I built connection to others while in process. I broke down into tears as my assistant instructor placed her hand on the base of my skull, guiding it towards a backward resting space. I had never consciously rested into the back of my body before. New layers of awareness immediately formed. From the way the crown of my head and my tailbone acted as limbs to my spine, to my own embryological development, I came into radically new concepts of how to move in my body. The structure of my spine shifted with great ease through new felt awareness. After training one afternoon, I guided my hand curiously upon my lower back. I noticed equal muscular tonice on either side of my spine. I had never felt alignment like that before in my life.

    My second Embodied Flow™ training in Spain, entitled Mind, helped me uncover emotional trauma held in different parts of my back. I found compassion and understanding for myself and my unique journey. I realized traumatic imprints could be actively released through embodied awareness. This skill gave me important information to bring into my private practice as an Integrative Thai Yoga Therapist. I often used the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) as a compliment to Thai Yoga. After Mind, I could guide clients into their emotions through self inquiry, rather than handing them an emotion I had identified them with.

    Through my final module in Bali, Expression, limited beliefs of what I was capable, or incapable of, came to surface. I remained vigilant toward the subtle ways my former addiction to suffering continued to corrupt my life experience. Unity with the space around me and within myself led me into movements I never deemed possible. I effortlessly dropped back into a bend and floated up again to stand tall. Yet when fear arose, my ability to move freely instantly came to a halt. It became clear to me the only thing in the way of experiencing my true self was my false myself.

    Most notably, The Embodied Flow™ concept of anchoring has helped me establish a sense of home in my center that I had not felt throughout my life. Projecting awareness outside of myself, reflected by physical cues such as intense outward gaze, flattened dimensionality in the back body and outthrust of the front body, somatized my inner experience. For most of my life, I wanted to leave my body, and so my physical body responded to that inner state. This pattern supported instability of my central axis throughout the majority of my life.

Ubud, Bali

Ubud, Bali

    The more practiced I become in embodied movement, the more liberated I am from suffering. I know this through my own unique journey. My back is dramatically different in feeling and shape than before I began my path with Embodied Flow™.

    The journey continues. Today, as I touch my lower back, I feel the lower left and right sides in relative equality, yet there is still more to uncover. My explorations in complementary energy movement practice such as Thai Yoga (Nuad Boran), Acupuncture, Tantric Philosophy, Meditation and Kundalini Yoga help me awaken prana stored within my central axis, which can thereafter disperse into the entirety of my being. My private sessions with Embodied Flow™ co-creator Scott Lyons in Somatic Movement Therapy, the practice I had disregarded years before, have deeply supported my transformation towards wholeness and awareness within my physical body. Through guided self inquiry of emotional holding patterns, my relationship to myself and my outside world continues to shift. Daily practice keeps me aware and attuned to the present moment and supported to remain on track towards manifesting my dharma within this lifetime.

    The tools I have gained to encourage students into authentic body awareness remain unique within the world of yoga instruction. In rough quote of Embodied Flow™ co-founder Tara Judelle: many yoga facilitators are teaching asana, and not many are teaching enlightenment. Yoga (to yoke) is a vehicle for union with the Self and freedom from the suffering of disconnection. My personal experience has helped me to remain courageous while mastering the art of facilitating yoga and therapy in a radically healing way, desperately needed without our world.

   The body is an incredibly intelligent macrocosm that always responds to the conditions it is presented with. “Checking out” emotionally and physically serves us to understand where suffering comes from: a lack of presence. When a container of supportive awareness is established, a new reality of what’s possible can be known.

Paros, Greece

Paros, Greece

Elizabeth Gross