In part one of this journey, you met me at age 50, as I tuned in to my own body through yoga, but still had not made the vital connections between the parts that made me whole.

I talked to myself as though my body was a bicycle. If I just kept it in good working order, it would follow my instructions and take me wherever I wanted. The ego-driven English professor had transformed herself into an ego-driven yoga student. And the yoga that I was doing seemed to keep my bicycle-body in working order. However, as I explain below, I soon realized that I was more than a finely-tuned bicycle.

But things were still not where I wanted them to be. I had lingering low back pain, and my shoulder that had been frozen and had healed, threatened a repeat of that painful immobility.

The next stop on my journey was a week-long Yoga Tune Up® certification at that heavenly spot in western Massachusetts called Kripalu. There, with Jill Miller and an amazing group of assisting teachers, I learned how to strengthen muscles that had been ignored in my previous practices – especially the interior and exterior obliques – which magically erased the remainder of my low-back pain.

Each of the two-hour morning master classes during that training began with an introductory Roll Model® Method experience that left me astounded at how much tension there was in my body – still – and how effectively this array of balls could usher the stress right out of my body.

Only by rolling on balls, did I learn that the stress was there, because I didn’t feel it on a day to day basis. When, under Jill’s direction, I placed the toted pair of original balls parallel to my spine just between the spine and the shoulder blade, or scapula. “Okay,” I said to myself, “My back is clearly hiked up on this hard set of balls and it is clearly uncomfortable.” This rolling move was called “rib rock.” With arms hugging my chest, I did as I was directed, rolling back and forth slowly over the mound of toted balls, first to the left and then to the right. Initially, I gasped. Then, I began to breathe. Then, it was almost comforting. What was happening?

When we came down off the balls and felt ourselves inhaling and exhaling on the yoga mat and I sensed something quite different. First, I could feel my back in a different way than I had before. I now know that I was developing proprioception – a kinesthetic sense of my back that had been a blind spot before.

More important, I had opened up the intercostal muscles between the ribs and this expansion, or new mobility in these muscles, made more space for my lungs. More space for my lungs meant more breath capacity. And, more breath capacity meant that I could now breathe better, which would help me to reduce stress more effectively.

I was totally onboard with reducing my stress, my habitual tightness, and the pain this stress caused. I now knew, with more clarity, how those childhood headaches grew and took hold as a defining feature of my life.

Continue to follow me next week, as I make my way to LA to attend the Breath and Bliss Immersion.

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