Sometimes doing simplest things can bring great benefits. I’m talking about yoga and the lens from which I’m looking through. That’s the lens I’m sharing when I’m teaching. For me, in regards to practicing, and in turn teaching, my goal is no goal. I don’t have a goal. Well, if there is no goal, what is then? It’s learning something about yourself with the process and feedback along the way. Yoga. To do that, I just want to give people the space to explore and breathe.
I had a special place last week for a group of middle school and high school students. These awesome youngins’ came to Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn where I teach for a private class. They had various special needs, and this was their first yoga class ever. Not a problem, and really not different from anyone else. I showed them around the center, helped them get situated with mats, bolsters, blankets, blocks, etc…and off we went into the yoga blue yonder. The class, as well as all my other classes, wasn’t about performing asana. It was about being together, listening to each other, and helping each other out. Yeah, we did some cat-cow, some warrior I, some warrior II, some tree, talked about pranayama, but it was beyond all that. It was a space of support and observation, and at the end of class, a space of rest and relaxation, which they loved. It was awesome and uplifting. It was one of the most pleasurable classes I’ve ever taught. As they we’re leaving, and saying good bye, and walking out the door, everybody, including myself, was full of laughter and joy. I had an amazing time, and had extra spring in my step for the rest of they day, as I hope they did too.
You know, I go through stuff too, and this time that I spent with these wonderful newly minted yogis got me through a passing period in my life, where, you know, things can get hard, even for yoga teachers. Hey, we’re people too. They helped me, and I hoped I helped them. To me, that’s what yoga is about; help when someone needs it, being in a space of exploring to where you are alert and relaxed, strong and soft, to where you have zeal and patience, and to where you can breathe. Freedom. Choices. Yoga.
Many thanks to my new friends for an opportunity to learn about myself while teaching this wonderful process of yoga.
Photo by Anna Rose
As the weekend is upon us, and I reflect upon my classes, I realize that something powerful happened at the beginning of the week. So much so, that it’s imprinted forever in my teaching and in my life.
I teach a Breath-Centered Yoga class at Gilda’s Club NYC. Gilda’s Club supports, educates, and empowers cancer patients and their families. This past Monday I had a new student. She was a bit tardy for the party, but no worries. I helped her get her yoga props: mat, bolster, blanket, blocks. As I was setting her up, I realized that she was having a hard day. Her breathing was labored, she was moving slow and like she was in pain, and I could tell she’s going through chemotherapy. I could smell it coming from her. I know what that smell smells like. Some of you know, some of you may not know, that I had testicular cancer almost ten years ago. I am a clean teen now. I had surgeries and chemo for six months. I know what chemo smells and feels like. My interaction with her brought me back to ten years ago when I was sick. It was a bit of a shock, but then I looked into her eyes and I saw that she needed help. I asked her if there’s anything I should know about her health. She told me she has lung cancer. I told her to take it easy and to take breaks whenever she needed and whenever she wanted. About fifteen to twenty minutes into her practice her breathing became really labored. I came over to her and asked if she was ok. She told me she was in pain, but she didn’t want to stop. I told her to stop and to lie down on a sofa that was in the room. I told her to take care of herself. As she walked over to the sofa and parked it, I told her she’s still participating in the class by just being in the room, and that it might not feel like it, but she’s absorbing the practice by observing and listening. There she stayed for about forty five minutes, for the rest of the class. Her breathing became easier, and she rested.
When the class was over and people were getting their things together, my new friend got up from the sofa and came over to me. I asked her how she felt. She said she felt better. She said wanted to do the class, but she just couldn’t because of the pain due to the surgeries and chemo. I told her, “Pat yourself on the back, friend. You came. You tried. You took care of yourself. Yoga.”
That class was really hard for me. Not so much as a teacher, but as a human being. It brought me back to my pain of the cancer that I had, but I wasn’t stuck on myself and my past hardship. I just didn’t want to see her suffer. I wanted to help take care of her, and the best way that I knew how was to remind her to take care of herself. To me, that’s yoga.
We have to take care of ourselves. We have to care of others with no strings attached when we see pain and suffering. Thank God there’s this wonderful process of yoga to help us get through times like this.
Peace, health, and happiness to you and to all the company you keep.
Photo by Anna Rose
It’s been some time since my last entry. The past year and half has been a whirl wind. Let me catch you up to speed. Some of you know. Some of you don’t know. Me and my partner have been actively exploring ways of having a family, of having a baby. It took about three years, but on August 16, 2013 we got our baby girl. She came to us five days old, and came to us as pre-adoptive parents. When she turned one year old, the agency changed their mind and didn’t recommend or approve us to adopt her. Too complicated to go into. They removed her and sent her to family in another state. Devastating. We love that precious creature, but the powers that be had a different plan. We fought to keep her, but the family court said no. She’s been gone for almost one month. We’re grieving.
All through her first year of life, my practice, in regard to asana, was sporadic at best. Just had very little time for anything that wasn’t baby, but that wasn’t a not a big deal to me. I was just so happy that she came to us. Since she’s been gone, I’ve been practicing at home a bit more frequently, and I feel a little better- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As I was practicing, I kept thinking about the baby. What is she thinking? What is she eating? How is she sleeping? Is she happy? Is she loved? Does she feel loved? It made me sad as I practiced, but my doggies gave me a good reminder of what yoga is about. To me, yoga is about clarity, self-realization, and relationships while consciously integrating my breath with my body, mind, and movement while I find the easiest way possible. The easiest way possible because the less energy I use in my practice, the more energy I have to go out and do my thing, and take care of that precious creature. You know, yoga? As I was breathing and moving and moving and breathing, sometimes rolling around on the floor, I had two cute miniature poodles licking my feet and licking my face. These doggies are our kids. Leo is a two year old delish apricot colored ball of energy, love, and devotion, swaddled in royal purple and gold (Just like Madonna and J.Lo. They’re leos, as is Leo), and Asa is a fluffy white three month old (just got her) little sister who is a gemini diva. She’s playful, flirtatious, endless fun. So many of her! If she could play, I think we would be good in doubles tennis. Anyway, I digress. I just love those doggies so much, but they were kinda annoying as I was trying to do my thing. As they were licking me and jumping all over the place, it occurred to me that they just want to be loved and know that I’m there for them. With my doggies it’s about cultivating, nurturing, and maintaining a relationship. To me, that’s yoga. That got me through my period of feeling sad and missing the baby. I’ll always miss and think about the baby, but there is this wonderful process called yoga that can help me make sense of it all and give me some peace with what happened.
Yoga is simple, but within its simplicity, it’s profound.
What does yoga mean to you?
Photo by Anna Rose
Here they are! America’s sweethearts! Even though Leo looks like he can’t be bothered, he loves his little sister.