The most important thing yoga teaches us is not the asana, or postures, that we hold for exercise. As I have described before, yoga is a study of self-healing and a way of life. Central to the practice, there is the notion that our external world is out of our locus of control, and it will never be in our control even if we perceive it to be at times. Yoga helps us to feel centered in the chaotic external world.
Cue, total disorder in Fiji.
That might sound kind of dramatic, but if you read my previous post and have been following some of my stories, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s the peak of tropical storm season, and Cyclone Gita pummeled through southern Fiji earlier this week at a category 5. We were very lucky in our village not to be hit by the belly of the beast, but Tonga is in a state of emergency and practically under water from flooding. Additionally, our visa extension has still not been stamped and we are 3 days past our current visa. Our application materials are in, but the process leading up to this was not promising, with lots of mishaps and headaches. On the school-front, my residency has been crumbled and re-built a few times since my arrival. Culturally, things run at a different pace in Fiji, but I have also planned this trip for almost a year with my objectives in place with my prospective entities in Fiji so it has been confusing to me as to why prior agreements were nil when I arrived. Flexibility is an understatement. My specialization in adult treatment is not my leading focus as I had first planned, and has shifted to pediatrics, because that is what is currently available. It nearly compromised my capstone, and it took lots of unplanned hours and late nights re-writing session plans and data grids. Serious gratitude goes out to my OT mentors who have given many hours of their own time in aiding me through this process. Every time I get off the phone with my mentor in Phoenix I spend about five minutes thanking her, and it is worth every penny of our limited internet.
So here I am! Hanging out in Fiji with a brand new residency. Thankfully it is still yoga-based, which was a requirement since my first month gaining my certification in India had to be tied to my residency per obligations of the national board. Most importantly, my new residency is of benefit to the community of Labasa, which is why I am here in the first place. If this project was not tied to school, I would be stress-free, and using my skills as needed anywhere and everywhere as the day presented itself, but that is obviously not reality. Damned be the real world.
Dare I present to you my current project? Please pause for a minute and find some wood to knock on for me.
I started a yoga-based stress-management class for the teaching staff that I am running weekly, using a perceived stress scale and mood scale to measure outcomes. On Monday I begin one of my primary residency objectives which is a yoga-based program for improved executive functioning, with a focus on increased sustained attention and mood control for school-aged kids. I am running this program 3x/week in a classroom with kids 11-18 years old, who have attention deficits and other executive functioning limitations. I am really excited about this program and hope there will be good outcomes with the assessments I am using. The teacher is a fantastic support and is on board with the program as well, which is truly the backbone to making this possible. I have approval to work at the hospital too, which is a sliver of hope to use my adult program I had already written out in length. Pending connection with the supervising liason, I will be able to get into the physio department to work with the amputee population. Lots of blessings come with change, yet some are under muddied water at first glance.
In the midst of these changes, one of my mentors suggested adding a side objective of journaling about my use of the yogic Yamas and Niyamas to facilitate flexibility and resilience in a cross-cultural clinical experience. I have been digging deep into my yogic stores in this realm, so for those who aren’t familiar with those terms, let me describe their significance. Yamas and Niyamas refer to one’s personal moral guidelines, which we use every day in our interactions with those around us and our self. Yamas include components such as nonviolence, truthfulness, and non-greed, while Niyamas include contentment, self-study, and self-discipline, to name a few. Think about these components as such – if you were to attempt a project or a new job without first addressing that you are anxious, depressed, or violent, those traits will rear their head in future experiences. It is essential to have a strong foundation of moral precepts in order to contain your newfound energy, otherwise you may unintentionally disturb or harm another person’s autonomy. The Yamas and Niyamas can be interpreted very literally, such as not hurting another person under the precept of nonviolence, or it can mean refraining from gossip or complaining about others. Certainly something I am being tested in with the changes of my former agreements going nil, but it does nothing good for myself or society to spit fire at them. And so this is yoga, establishing safety and steadiness in a life of constant change, with many milestones left without conclusion. Nothing truly is in control, but our ethical compass can serve as a means to shape our reactions to disorderly experiences. It is our choice how we portray ourselves to the world, and inward to ourselves. I am embracing Fiji for what it is, and what is to come. All I can do is present myself as I am, with what I have to offer.
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.