Siddhi Saraswati is a yogi to the core, but it might surprise you to know that she doesn’t practice classical yoga postures. Siddhi is proof that yoga is more about poise than a pose. Read about how her relationship with life, learning, nature, and multiple sclerosis makes her a true yogi.
Words by Siddhi
In 1985 I heard about an Australian medical doctor who had spent a decade studying with a guru in India and had returned to Australia to teach yoga as the foundation of wellbeing. That doctor was Swami Shankardev Saraswati.
My meeting with him soon after changed my life in a most positive, nurturing way.
It sparked in me a deeper connection to yoga, and I became certain that it was to become my vocation. I traveled to India to further my studies and completed my teacher training back in Australia. I taught yoga in Sydney and enjoyed a wonderful yoga community for well over a decade.
In 1998 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It moved quickly through my brain and spinal cord, damaging parts of the myelin sheath, the neural pathway that sends messages from the brain to the body. My brain, spine controlling balance, proprioception, cognition, voice, and movement were all affected.
I tried hard to retain the life I’d grown to love, but when I could no longer drive or teach I was forced to leave my students, my community, and to find a new way of living.
Nature had always been a source of clarity and nourishment for me, so I moved from Sydney to the beautiful South Coast of New South Wales endeavoring to remain as healthy and balanced as possible. However, not teaching and being far away from my community was an immense challenge.
At first, I clung to my pre-MS way of practicing yoga and meditation, but even the simple practice of remaining upright in a seated position for meditation was grueling in the presence of tremors, neuropathic pain, and spasticity.
The wise and generous counsel from Shankardev and Jayne encouraged me to be more spacious and forgiving with my practice and to allow the changes, and when they launched Big Shakti’s online courses and seminars, these became a great support to me in so many ways.
They brought knowledge, community, and a whole new way of learning yoga.
These studies have become integral to my understanding of the highly unpredictable nature of MS symptoms, which can change rapidly due to fatigue or temperature variations; e.g., one moment I will be walking behind my chair, the next my legs can no longer hold me upright. I may be talking clearly in the morning, but by afternoon my voice may become slow and the timbre raspy, making it difficult to speak.
I’ve learned how to respond immediately with techniques of breath or meditation to either calm, invigorate, or just be with whatever arises. This approach helps my symptoms subside more quickly.
The unique approach of Shankardev and Jayne straddles both Eastern/Western systems of understanding of the mind and body. The balance of theory, meditation, and the written exercises delivers an integrated experience to understand the body and mind.
Courses such as Finding Your Life’s Purpose, Yoga Psychology and Yoga Psychotherapy have given me practical tools to reshape my life. I have a sense of perspective, personal control, and purpose regardless of the progression of MS.
In Facing The Shadow, I have learned further insights into myself and others. This allows self-regulation and empathy for whatever drives me and an ability to have a deeper insight into the human condition.
The guidance, support, encouragement, and feedback that Shankardev and Jayne provide shows great commitment to helping their students realize their full potential. Their duty of care is expressed with high integrity.
These teachings are always available to me, such is the beauty of the online system they created. I can revisit as I need, as life unfolds.
If you want a new way of understanding yoga and yourself, or if you believe you can’t do yoga because of illness or limitation, take a look at what Big Shakti offers.