There is a saying in yoga that when you are ready, the teacher will come. You just need to have faith and be open.
I met my teacher, Amba Stapleton, at a time when I was still attached to the perception of myself as limited, an injured woman with a defective hip. She exemplified just the opposite – a dynamic and empowered force of joyful nature.
While living in Manhattan, the practice of yoga had given me physical relief and a sense of efficacy at a time when my arthritic pain felt all-consuming and out of my control. Thanks to its healing power, I made the decision to leave behind a broader life that wasn’t working and become a yoga teacher. My first step was a Google search that led me to the Nosara Yoga Institute (NYI) run by Amba & Don Stapleton.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are,” the website said, quoting Joseph Campbell. I felt a fit immediately and viscerally. I made plans, packed up my home, and moved to Costa Rica with my savings.
In my first yoga teacher training, I began to experience the deeper multidimensional layers of the practice, in addition to its potent physical healing benefits. I learned tools to balance and direct my own life energy into a more positive flow. Over time, I released a lifetime’s worth of repressed experiences and unproductive behaviors.
Following that training, Amba offered me the opportunity to produce the NYI newsletter. Her contribution to my first edition was an article about the Bandhas or energy locks of yoga – a new concept for me, and one that did not experientially make sense until a key moment at a later training. What are these things? I thought at the time.
Meanwhile, as my body was shifting back into alignment, my energy was all over the place. It was taking up the rear in my development – literally. The arthritis in my hip and scoliosis in my spine had led to chronic instability in my pelvis and sacrum. While I was gaining strength in my practice physically, in my enthusiasm I would frequently injure myself as I slowly developed the discernment to listen to my body’s needs.
During a morning practice, I pushed into a pose and my sacrum objected loudly – again. That evening when helping Amba set up for an event, I tried to move a box and grunted from the pain in my sacroiliac joint.
Amba leaned toward me and said, “Pull up your vagina!” I did, and felt immediate relief. A lessening of pain and a surging of my own power. Oh, I thought – that was a clear, blunt and direct way of experiencing the Bandhas.
To this day, I still hear her voice in my head whenever I am feeling pain or powerlessness. “Pull up your vagina.” Ground yourself in your own strength. Pull yourself up from the base feelings of fear and despair. Bring your energy and focus up into your heart. Feel the shift and the strength in your body as you pull to that center and act from a higher place. So that you too can be of service to another.
The powerful practice of the Bandhas is described in this week’s feature. Now, more than ever, it is important for all women to find the root of their own power. The strength, courage and love-based leadership of women can bring balance to a divided world.
And together, let’s celebrate our teachers and icons who embody the broader concept of “pull up your vagina” and make the world a better place for all women.