Yoga Class

I didn’t want to go to Yoga class last night.

I didn’t feel well. The work week had worn me through, and my back was sore along with the thigh that had cramped up on Thursday night, which sent me wailing and crying through the house for twenty minutes just before dawn. It isn’t a pretty sight, take my word for it.

Not wanting to go to Yoga class because of soreness is about as brilliant as not keeping an appointment with the doctor because of a scratchy throat and a headache.

My phone rang as I pulled into the driveway in front of my house. I sat in my car for a few minutes after hanging up. TT and I were supposed to go together, but he got called away to a real estate emergency. Things like this are not new in our life. Marriage with TT has helped me learn to be flexible and independent. A gift given from the left hand.

So I sat there, car door open, one leg out, my foot resting on the driveway. The air was soft and warm, a perfect evening to be outside. I could take a walk, I mused, or tend one of the garden beds for a while. We could have a leisurely dinner together when TT got home. I was sorely tempted to call the teacher and beg off. It was just a Yoga class anyway.

Except not really.

One of the things Yoga can teach us, if we let it, is compassion and generosity. Last night’s class was the third in a series of four classes, called “Yoga for Food”, for which we pay a discounted price for the class and bring foodstuffs to be donated to the Rhode Island Food Bank.

My not going would mean less for others. It would mean that the teacher’s willingness to teach a class for no compensation was worthless. Do you see where I’m going with this? We’re all in this together. We all affect each other. What we do matters.

It’s humbling to think along these terms. And it’s inspiring.

I went to Yoga class as planned. There were three of us, and I wondered why all ten spaces were not filled, except for the fact that it was one of those perfect August Friday evenings in New England. I may have gotten a whiff of barbecue as I drove home from the studio.

My back’s feeling much better today. And now I think I’ll go for a walk after breakfast to work out the kink in my leg.



In the Midst of Women Strong Enough to be Soft

To the woman who asked Swami a question about practicing only Yoga and dropping her other workouts:  I feel for you.  I feel for you, because I know you, even though we have never met.  I tried to make eye contact with you, but I could see that you were not in an emotional place for meeting new people during Friday evening’s Satsang.

Swami went right to the heart and soul of your question, didn’t she?  We all felt your discomfort at her quietly waiting for your answer, which she knew would be an answer to yourself more than to her.  Her questioning you in reply to your inquiry caught you by surprise, and she didn’t leave you any wiggle room in that gathering of women who were more like what you are trying to avoid being than what you are like.  You were in the midst of women strong enough to allow themselves to be soft. Did you feel our sadness?  Did you feel our sympathy?

I felt empathy for you, because I saw an old “me” in you, a “me” who could not let go of control enough to enjoy the ride.  A self who counted, measured, planned and made order of things and was always just one reach away from the sigh of satisfaction that can come only from release and surrender.

I don’t think Swami intended to cast shame upon you; from what I can gather, that is not what Swamis do.  I think she was trying to help you light your path.  She was trying to enlighten you.  She was trying to help you lighten up.  How do I know this?  The question you were asked I have asked myself while peering into the eyes I see when I look into the mirror.   “What is it you really want?”

What gave you the idea that Yoga requires that you give up other forms of exercise?  What gave you the idea that Yoga is a form of exercise? Yoga is not exercise; it is a practice for the benefit mind and soul as well as for body. Keep this:  “You are not your body”.    Swami’s opening words of her talk.

Be wary of the teacher who tells you that their way is the only way.  I have searched for conflicts between Yoga and my faith life, and finding none, I continue with both.

During my walk yesterday morning you came to mind, and your question gave me much to consider.  I started to think about the me who worked out at the gym, (a place where few people smile and say hello, I have noticed), did aerobics until her knees ached, ran until her back declared mutiny, suffered through weight training and cross training and deep water Pilates, swam laps until she thought she could actually sleep in the water; on and on and on, all in pursuit of a perfectly formed body, which would be attached to a perfect self-image, but in reality I was in pursuit of peace and tranquility.  If you find peace and tranquility through your workouts, then continue to enjoy them.  If you do not, then you may want to ask why you are spending so much time doing something you don’t enjoy.

I walk because I love to walk.  I swim laps when the sun is hot and the water is cool and refreshing.  I do both because they are sources of happiness and tranquility, and this old body of mine gets the side benefits of the exertion.   Yoga has helped me reach this place.   And I hope the same for you.