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Sarah has been practicing yoga for over 20 years, and teaching for 11 years. She has practiced almost every style of yoga out there, and gained so much from every class, training, and workshop, no matter the style of yoga.
A few years ago Sarah’s full time yoga teaching schedule started to take a toll on her body. Her low-back and left hip were in excruciating pain, so much that she eventually was using a cane to walk. This was not due to any specific injury or fall. It was the result of slight imbalances from childhood injuries from athletics, years of aligning her body into yoga postures, and the overall misalignment and compensations they were causing. Physical therapy, chiropractics, acupuncture and massage helped to reduce her pain temporarily, but nothing was working to get fully rid of the pain and align Sarah’s body appropriately from all of these many compensations. Sarah was spending a lot of her income on healing treatments, yet she could still barely walk one block without debilitating hip and back pain. She would wake up every morning barely able to walk to the bathroom… it was more of a old lady crouching wobble! This was the life of a dedicated yoga teacher? Something wasn’t right.
The problem was not that her physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists weren’t doing their job correctly. The problem was that even though these healers would help Sarah, her fascia (connective tissues) and her trained yogi mind would push her back into yoga-informed movement patterns, despite her deepest desire to be pain free. Basically, despite everyone’s best efforts, Sarah’s imprinted movement habits from committed study of traditional forms of yoga for so many years were working against her.
The sad part is, Sarah isn’t alone. There are many yoga teachers who are in pain. What’s worse, is as a yoga teacher, when your income relies on your ability to teach and to keep a healthy and strong reputation, many yoga teachers keep their pain to themselves, so as not to destroy their careers or loose their students’ respect. Sarah’s tipping point was when all her doctors and physical therapists could offer her anymore were steroid injections into her hip/buttock area to see if that would help to reduce her pain. She even had the appointment scheduled to go through with the procedure, but fear, and a little practice called Bowspring, got Sarah to think there might be another way.
Sarah has beed studying the Bowspring since it was first formed in 2012 with Desi Springer and John Friend. She has followed them to Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver to take Bowspring workshops and trainings. She also hosted John & Desi in San Diego twice, in 2012 and 2013, for a weekend of workshops, with the hope of getting others as excited as she was about this new practice. In 2012, the Bowspring was taught as a very active, challenging practice called the Roots. As John & Desi have worked tirelessly to refine their method, the Bowspring practice is now taught at a much slower pace, and is having much more success with students understanding the specificity of the practice before moving to more advanced Bowspring practices, like the Roots.
NOTE: This is important! If you tried Bowspring when it first began in those earlier years, and had a bad taste in your mouth (or lower back) afterward, I HIGHLY encourage you to try it again – it has shifted so much, and is much more comprehensive, safe, do-able and REAL than ever before. It has evolved so much more… they’ve really nailed it down!
Although Sarah really enjoyed the curvy, light, bouncy nature of the practice, (and for the first time in her yoga career was finally able to hold inversions without the use of a wall!!!) she was still a little unsure about it. It was so radically different than her many years of rigorous training of hatha, vinyasa, and Anusara yoga. And it was difficult. There were times that her lower back would be tender after a Bowspring class due to its constant demand on waking up her weak low back muscles. She was being asked to move her body in such a different way, and it was scary. It contradicted what she had been teaching for many years. But there was something about it that made her feel so good – not just in clearing her chronic hip and back pain when she really committed to the practice, but also the mental aspect of living with a radiant heart, lightness in the body, full on all sides. It calmed her anxious energy, soothed her worrying mind, and gave her the chance to really feel powerful in her body again without pain.
Sarah continued to love studying and practicing the Bowspring in Denver as much as she could get away, but would come home to San Diego feeling very alone, since she is the only teacher of the practice in Southern California. Her yoga classes at various studios in the community shifted – she would sprinkle in Bowspring postures such as frog handstand into a regular vinyasa class. This is very challenging and can be confusing for a student – to hear one alignment cue and then to be told to do something very differently a moment later. To tuck the tailbone or not tuck?? She was even sadly let go from a studio where she had worked very hard to care for her students, where they required her to instruct students to tuck their tailbone, which she refused.
Sarah thrived at studios where students were open to Bowspring method, where she happily sprinkled in bits and pieces of Bowspring into her vinyasa yoga classes. However, despite some effort, was unable to get the names of her classes changed in an effort to more accurately reflect the Bowspring. This was surprising to her, as outside of her regular weekly yoga classes, she was teaching very successful Bowspring workshops all over San Diego, creating a solid Bowspring student following. One of her students even moved to Denver from San Diego to be able to study directly at Vital Bowspring with John & Desi, because she had found so much healing and strength from Sarah’s Bowspring workshops and classes in San Diego. This student had walked into Sarah’s class barely able to walk and move, in pain from a terrible accident. And now is completely pain free, living in Denver, has taken both of John & Desi’s Deep Dive Teacher Trainings at Vital, and is continuing to grow and strengthen in her practice and life every day.
Sarah attributes this push back from the San Diego yoga community on Bowspring to two main reasons: fear of doing something different than the norm (evolution of yoga???), and the not so pleasant reputation and history of one of Bowspring’s co-creators (get over it already, he’s apologized, he’s changed, move on with your life, because he sure has).
This summer Sarah is so excited to open her very own studio: Yoga Bow, with the amazingly strong emotional support of her teachers and students. Sarah visualizes Yoga Bow to be a space where people from any background enjoy the benefits of yoga and Bowspring. Yoga Bow is not exclusively a Bowspring studio. There are many great teachers at Yoga Bow from all backgrounds of yoga styles who will be sharing their gifts. However, Sarah hopes to educate more like-minded and open-minded teachers of how the Bowspring can be so beneficial to us all, and train more and more Bowspring teachers for our region! With Yoga Bow’s teacher training coming up this fall, Sarah is excited to not only train teachers in traditional yoga, but also share the powerful beauty of the Bowspring.
The Bowspring has taught Sarah how to move her body pain free in all sorts of activities, from rock climbing to hiking to her yoga practice, in a safe and sustainable manner that leaves her pain free and stronger than ever at 35. Sarah understands the sadness and frustration that chronic pain can cause, and the emotional toll it can take. She loves working with her students to help them move out of old posture habits that harm to Bowspring movement patterns that heal! She has seen Bowspring not only help her directly, but also her Bowspring students. She is extremely grateful for the teachings of Bowspring, the creators of Bowspring, and the growing global community of Bowspringers!