Dear Bernie Clark,
Two days before my 53rd birthday last July, I stumbled in the yard and badly sprained my ankle. It was only the latest of a steady stream of injuries. I fell often, for no good reason. My shoulders had become so painful that at time I could hardly dress myself, or sleep, or use any tools. I went as far as getting a cortisone shot in my right shoulder. Massage, chiropractic, and physical therapy weren't healing me. Surgery was to be the next step. My right knee, injured when I was a teenager, could hardly support my weight and my right foot had become so inflexible I couldn't bend my big toe. (In retrospect, that was probably a big part of my tendency to fall over when walking.) I also couldn't turn my head to the left or tilt it back very much. Looking back, it's as if I wrote off my injured parts. In my imagination I was like that dismembered knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail, no arms or legs but still shouting, “I'm not dead yet!,
I worked a stressful desk job for almost 24 years. I put on a lot of weight. Then in 2014 we bought a piece of land & I began pursuing my dream of having a small farm with beehives, blueberries, chickens, and a big garden. Clearing trees and brush, making a garden, repairing outbuildings, all of that was work I loved but it quickly began to cost me in injuries. And I just wasn't flexible or strong enough to do some of the work I wanted to accomplish.
I knew yoga could help me. I did a lot of yoga from the age of 16 through my mid-thirties but had stopped practicing regularly sometime in the late 90's, and now over and over again, I failed to leave home in time to catch any classes. In August, determined to rehabilitate the sprained ankle, I signed up for a free month of Gaia channel through Amazon.
Trying a few Gaia videos quickly demonstrated to me that I needed something very remedial. My balance was so bad, and my flexibility so poor, that even beginner Hatha was too much. I couldn't move that quickly and stay balanced. Then I spotted your yin yoga videos. The first practice I tried was Yin Yoga for the Upper Body. You will probably get a chuckle out of my reasons for choosing that one-it wasn't just that my shoulders and arms were so painful. It was your shirt. It looked like something from a Star Trek episode. “I'll try that,, I thought.
I cried and sweated through those early videos, no matter how gently I moved into the asanas. Sometimes I got nauseous or dizzy even approximating the poses. It was humbling. But the slow pace began to work its magic. In the beginning, I couldn't kneel, squat, lunge, or fold into child's pose. I just did what I could. Your coaching was so on point for me. Find the first edge, stay there. Breathe. No pain. It was a challenge to allow myself to be gentle with my body, and I was embarrassed at how far I had let myself slide. Having the freedom to do the work privately in my living room, sometimes snuggled by my dogs or cats during savasana, was easeful and comforting and made me want to keep going.
Gradually I added other classes. Desiree Rumbaugh and Cameron Gilley are favorites of mine. Desiree's Wisdom Warrior series is so helpful for alignments. Cameron's peaceful energy is powerful. I also began a nearly daily meditation practice. But time and again I come back to your Yin Yoga series. If you asked me my favorite, I would say whichever one I did last night. I have probably heard the stories of the brothers and their two rings and the runaway water buffalo a hundred times.
Almost a year has passed since I began my yin yoga journey. A few weeks ago, I was hiking with my family, and my 16-year-old niece and I outpaced everyone on the hilly trails. I still do your classes two or three times a week. There are lingering challenges (shoelace and yoga mudra, in particular), but I rarely fall anymore. I can work long and hard on the land without hurting myself. The other day, I was mixing soil and filling pots, and only realized after several minutes that I was squatting as easily and naturally as I did when I was much younger.
And that was when I decided to write you a thank-you letter.
Thank you, Bernie Clark, for being my teacher. We've never met but you have helped me more than I can adequately express. Thank you for those videos. Your work has changed my life.