Breathe

The buzz of busyness kept my feet flying. Sometimes I felt like I was gaining and sometimes I felt like I was falling behind – although indicators for gains or losses were hazy since I had no clear vision of where I was heading!  Any direction seemed better than standing still and sinking into the mud that threatened to engulf me if I stopped.  I ran from home to work to school to the condo and to anywhere in between that called for my attention.  I was afraid to slow down enough to catch my breath, to stop long enough to focus on the twinges of painful reality.  My energy was edging towards empty.  Then a small ‘filling station’ appeared on the horizon.   

Training to become a yoga teacher had crossed my mind many times.  Lack of both finances and time always eliminated the possibility – until an opportunity appeared that felt different.  I made a call, assuming it would lead to just one more dead end decision.  A friendly energetic voice answered from somewhere in Ohio.  Somehow our conversation led to where I had grown up.  I was stunned to discover that the person on the other end of the phone, over a thousand miles away, had grown up only miles from my childhood home!  She knew my tiny town and I knew hers! It felt like a sign!  The availability of a payment plan along with a training location within driving distance raised my hopes.  The training focused on learning how to use Yoga as a tool to facilitate the healing process – of the individual, society and planet!  The goals included: integrating the development of wisdom, intuition, insight, and compassion; and learning various yoga techniques to support the journey towards awareness of and connection with the true Self.  It sounded like a tall order.  But the sense of doom that had lingered just below my consciousness for longer than I could remember pushed me forward.  I signed up.  A lifeline was tossed my way and I reached out and seized it.  The ability to teach yoga and supplement my income helped justify the decision, but the truth was that this was about far more than teaching.  It was time to step away from the avoidance that busyness allowed, time to bring the reality of my life into focus.  It was time to take conscious control over the only thing I could – my own actions.

Initially I would be away for two weeks of intensive training, followed by a 3-6 month internship locally.  I traveled to a quiet place in the woods – an Ashram in the hills of Pennsylvania.  I didn’t actually know what an Ashram was, but quick research prepared me for the resident Swami’s and their traditional garb and appearance.  I was housed with two significantly younger women in a small suite of rooms.  Paths meandering through stands of trees and groomed lawns led to multiple residences, the main dining hall, a large building where the training would be held, and a small temple.  Approximately 25 people were in attendance – mostly women, mostly younger, and mostly in better shape.   Healthy vegetarian fare was served ‘cafeteria style’ – bringing back the discomfort of my high school lunch room days as I searched for a place to sit amongst strangers.  The urge to seek out the safety of an empty table tugged at my feet.  I resisted and forced myself to sit with a group chatting away as if they had known each other forever.  It was easier than I had anticipated.  Everyone talked about where they were from, why they were there, and asked the ‘get to know you’ questions that were easy to answer. 

Following dinner we headed to our first group meeting.  Students trickled into the large open room as I found my place on a mat in the back row, succumbing to a habit that rose to the surface before the weight of a conscious decision could hold it down.  Many participants were already actively teaching yoga and confidently displayed their knowledge and skill.  Watching super toned bodies fearlessly twist into postures I had never even attempted was more intimidating than I had expected.  A black raven of doubt flew in to peck away at the possibility that had led me here.  I wondered if I could get a refund and use this gust of fear to lift my wings and fly me home.   Then I began to notice a few people that appeared closer to my age.  The warm up practice revealed some of all ages that appeared closer to my ability level.  I gravitated towards them as I mentally divided the class into those who would accept me and those who would not. 

Our instructors were soft spoken and kind, and responded to each of us as if we were on a level playing field.  Early morning yoga sessions were offered before breakfast to those that chose to join in.  Initially I did not attend, but as my comfort and trust grew, I found my way there on a regular basis.  Teachings on yoga history and philosophy, along with unfamiliar words like ‘koshas’ and ‘doshas’, required more learning and memory than anticipated.  Much of the breath work introduced during sitting practice was familiar. But incorporating the breath as more than a simple accompaniment to movement, using it to actually facilitate and inform movement, expanded my perception of energy flow within my body. Familiar poses were deconstructed into the muscular, energetic, and movement components.  Even simple poses, like mountain, were much more complex than I realized.  Had I missed this part in my classes?  Or was I just now ready to delve into a deeper understanding?  Deconstruction then led to reconstruction, and how to move into poses without forcing or losing the alignment important for maintaining joint health.    As training progressed it quickly became obvious that even the most experienced students would need to alter their movements, and replace the need to make a pose meet visual ideals with honoring the need for proper alignment and safety.  The basic triangle pose was explored, and as instructors helped participants move using the methods taught, confused and startled expressions flooded the room. Not a single student, even the most flexible, could touch their hand to the floor while maintaining alignment. The transformation of what had previously appeared to be ‘prefect poses’ was humbling to all.  

To be continued…

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