By Samantha Wong
I recently attended Caroline Coggins weekend retreat in the awesome beauty of Otford valley. As soon as we started on the asanas my first thought was that my body has forgotten what a Caroline class was like. My second thought was “what am I doing in a room full of teacher training students and teachers?” I am not the most diligent or experienced of yoga students. I started at the Yoga Centre about 8 years ago (although I had done several years of Iyengar Yoga elsewhere) after a lower back injury from Pilates which has resulted in chronic lower back pain. One of the worst things about pain, other than it hurts, is that your body compensates in very unhelpful ways without you knowing, which in my case has led to chronic neck pain and extremely tight shoulders.
When I first started at the Centre, I had a very kind gentle teacher who accommodated my pain so I had a lovely relaxing time propped in various positions. Then when that teacher left, Caroline took on the class. Suddenly no more lovely soft positions. Caroline really pushed me. My back and neck silently screamed “no, don’t do it” during backbends and inversions. But the strange thing was that my shoulders which were wound like a tight rubber band were happily stretched and unwound. There was a release in my whole body. I learnt that there is a real purpose to getting the postures as correct as possible: to allow our energy to flow unobstructed through our bodies (I’m not sure if that’s correct but that’s my take on it). Yoga is an important part of my pain management as it realigns my body and stops bad postural habits from forming.
Back to the Otford retreat, after my initial apprehension, I really enjoyed the retreat and felt replenished at the end. And the wonderful thing about being in a room full of teachers is that you have lots of experienced hands around you to help you into your most feared asana.