Since I was nineteen I have been teaching. First piano, aware of a student's whole body, weight, balance, posture, tension and relaxation, and working with mind, heart, soul and beauty. I was a teacher who moved about, who sang the music and who came with a love for the music, the student and with a love to teach. To impart. And this could not stop when I became a yoga teacher.
I have also faced death. I have looked it squarely in the face with cancer, over ten years ago. You never forget. But for yoga, relaxation, meditation and healing visualizations, I would be dead - the cancer would return. I know the fear, the coldness and aloneness of a dreaded prognosis. Cancer! When they slit you open you might be riddled with it. Five days from when I was told, to when I was operated. Fear/courage! I know the chill that comes with any ill health, that is - "is it?".
This knowledge established an empathy between the HIV/AIDS yoga students and myself. They had lost much in their lives because of this vile disease. I had lost much in my life. There can't be much left on my list.
In 1991 HIV/AIDS infections had peaked around the world. Staff at the Victorian Aids Council (VAC) in Collingwood were feeling the stress and pressure of the workload and were looking for an appropriate weekly session to maintain health and balance. I was encouraged to apply, as tai chi and aerobics were also being considered. Yoga was voted for, and I commenced with a weekly 8 am class. In 1993, when the Positive Living Centre (PLC) opened in St Kilda, I offered to teach yoga there and was accepted. Relaxation/meditation classes followed until the end of 1997.
This book began as a way to assist yoga teachers of students living with HIV/AIDS, because there was very little information about this subject available at the time. It is not a. comprehensive yoga manual, but an introduction to some of the considerations and requirements necessary for this special class, based on my own teaching experiences. When half written, I asked a former director of the PLC to read and comment on it. She made me aware that this is also a book for all people with life-threatening illnesses (including cancer, emphysema and leukaemia), and so it expanded and grew. May it truly be a book of love and light for all who read it.
I have structured the book like my classes, with descriptions of pranayama (breathing) and limbering techniques, the classic asanas, relaxation and meditation, tailored for students living with HIV / AIDS. Each technique is described in terms of the particular physical, emotional or spiritual benefit it can bring.
Most of the yoga practice is written in the instructional voice - as if I was giving one of my classes - so other teachers can read how I prepared and structured my classes. Written this way, I hope it will also be useful for students in their home practice wanting to strengthen their bodies and minds. I hope that the yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques described will also assist the carers and families of people living with chronic illness.
I have included sections on physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, describing practices that have helped me in my own experience of cancer, and which I have passed on to students in my classes. Finally, I have selected a number of stories describing students of mine and their experiences of HIV/AIDS and cancer, as well as the rooms we worked in, to demonstrate some of the joys, challenges and sorrows involved teaching such special classes.
May this book be of help to Swamis and teachers of HIV/AIDS students, for people living with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses, and for the families and careers of people with these illnesses.
I do not write as an expert on HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, but from my own experience of teaching people with this condition. Yoga helped me in my fight against cancer. I have seen it help others in similar situations to. I hope the sharing of my experiences of healing and teaching will be useful.
Please use this book in conjunction with Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha (1996 edition) by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. I have quoted from this book with kind permission of the Bihar School of Yoga and have included page number references to it in parentheses through the text.
There are no straight guidelines. Teach with compassion, be creative, and much will flow back to you - more than you ever dreamed. Your life will be enriched and broadened by the experience, forever.
Jignasu Chin Maya
Julie Wentworth February 2002
Sannyasi Chin Maya
love & light
a yoga manual