I met Yoga therapist, Dr. Lakshmi Sutter (program director of the Integral Yoga Therapy program) by chance in September of 2015. I had been unable to participate in Yoga classes for more than a year. Total knee replacement and surgeries for hammertoes and pelvic floor prolapse had left me in poor mental and physical condition. After the long hiatus, my husband coaxed me into attending his regular Yoga class. Lakshmi and the instructor were good friends and Lakshmi happened to participate just that once because she had a free day. I look on it as “Divine Intervention.” After class, the instructor asked if anyone needed special attention. I replied that I needed help with several things, including my “Buddha Belly.” The instructor, who knew Lakshmi to be a Yoga Therapist in the Integral Yoga tradition, gestured toward Lakshmi and said, “She can help you.”
Thus began my healing journey with Lakshmi the following week. We met one-on-one for at least 1-1/2 to 2 hours weekly for many years. It was a game changer. Other than Yoga poses, which are a given and were adapted weekly and in consultation with my physical therapist, I’ll list some specific things we did to heal my body-mind.
o We always began with, “What hurts?” and/or “How does something feel?” A journal would have been helpful to her, but she adapted to my journal aversion and instead kept a daily log of pain frequency relative to different activities.
o We would review how I felt after:
- the last session
- suggested daily practices
- breathing exercises
o I was asked to relate what was generally going on with me and affirmations that I could offer toward meeting my stated goals.
Lakshmi could read my body and energy as soon as I entered the room. My core was weak, so I needed back and belly work, as well as Kegels (as prescribed by my physical therapist). Some weeks, the emphasis would shift to more subtle work with the mind. If I was feeling low, we would work on visualizing something uplifting that I chose, like abundant sunshine. I would listen to a loving kindness CD. More regularly, when I heard a critical voice, I would remind myself “I am awesome, adored, and deeply loved”—things my beloved Jim would tell me and I knew to be true.
Right away I began attending a regular weekly Yoga class free of my prior self-consciousness. Within six months my balance was substantially improved. With aging, I’ve discovered how quickly balance deteriorates without practice. My core was strengthened and I was doing more strenuous hikes—five miles in the Georgia mountains. Three-part breath practice was, and continues to be, a stress reducer and a way to ease pain by directing the breath to the pain area.
Frequently, Lakshmi and I talked for the first half hour or longer. It was wonderful to have a non-judgmental person to unload to. She became my close guide, yogi “shrink,” and advocate for a healthful lifestyle. At the end of each session we would agree on homework and goals, which she would email me within one day. This important home practice changed and grew over time. Daily, I might do a 3-minute body scan, 3-minute breathing exercise, deep relaxation, or even oil my feet at night (a practice she told me was from Ayurveda, a sister tradition). Weekly, I would attend a group Yoga practice, follow a Yoga CD she made, or listen to my favorite Jon Kabat-Zinn meditation. Each week I progressed to reach my weekly goal of 3 days of Yoga, 3 hikes, and 2 meditations.
Yoga therapy has enriched my life tremendously. I’m happy to say my husband and a number of church friends have benefited from Lakshmi’s Yoga teaching, which is influenced by her work as a Yoga therapist. After months of looking for a Yoga teacher, she offered and all have come to love her and her healing approach.
I’m an 81-year old retired first-grade teacher; mother of 2, grandmother of 3, and still active. I recently returned to hiking 3 months after a complete shoulder replacement. I’m managing COVID times well and remain crazy happy with my husband of nearly 60 years.
About Eleanor McMinn:
Eleanor McMinn is a Yoga enthusiast, dedicated hiker, devoted wife and loving grandma!
About Lakshmi Sutter:
Lakshmi Sutter, C-IAYT, Ph.D. E-RYT500, YACEP serves as the Program Director of the Integral Yoga Therapy program. Lakshmi previously served in the Integral Yoga Academy at Yogaville as Academy Director, as Integral Yoga Teachers Association Director, and as Teacher Training Planning & Development Director. She is a trainer of Integral Yoga Hatha Yoga at the basic and intermediate levels, and she enthusiastically shares her fascination with the human body during basic anatomy workshops. Lakshmi’s supportive instruction is suitable for a wide range of physical levels and class approaches ranging from gentle and restorative to energetic and challenging.