Turning

“Come on the risin’ wind. We’re goin’ up around the bend.” ~ Up Around the Bend, Creedence Clearwater Revival

I’ve started teaching yoga.

This has come as a complete surprise, because teaching yoga was never anything that I’d ever dreamed I’d be doing, not even when I’d signed up for the teacher training. In fact, when we took our seats in a circle on that first day, we were asked for a show of hands as to why we were there. Had we signed up to teach yoga? Had we signed up to deepen our practice? Everyone raised their hands accordingly; everyone, that is, except for me.

I didn’t have an answer as to why I was there. I was seated without any clear intention, knowing only that I needed something next, and I wondered if this might be it. I figured in 200 hours over the next five months I’d be able to figure that out.         

I’d felt much the same way when I started practicing yoga. It was several years earlier, and a sign had suddenly appeared for a new yoga studio in the shopping center near my home. I saw it every time I drove by on my errands to the bank, or the grocery, or the gas station. I circled it like this for months before finally stopping in. And then I signed up for a class without any clear intention. At most, I thought I might get some exercise. It would be an understatement to say that I was in for a big surprise! 

Right away I started practicing and couldn’t seem to stop. And I kept on like that, completely unaware that I had embarked on any sort of journey. In fact, if I’d been asked as to why the practice had gripped me so, I don’t know that I could have answered. I wouldn’t have been able to explain why it felt so good to move on the mat the way that we were moving. All I knew was that the movement moved me. Practicing was making me feel as if I were on my way somewhere, and I think that’s why I was always there.  

In truth, I’d been there many times before, because the new yoga studio was in what used to be the video store! Oh, what irony that the place that once put me on the couch was now the very one to lift me from it! For years my children and I had roamed that same floor, looking for movies to kick off our weekend. Our all-time favorite was The Sound of Music. On countless Friday nights we’d sprawl across the couch with family and friends and watch it all over again.  

Those Friday nights were a like a breather for us. Our busy week had ended, but the even busier weekend had yet to begin. In many ways, those Friday nights mirrored my life. I was taking a breather, too. Recently separated, I’d made enough decisions to settle with my children in a home of our own, but not many more than that. The rest would have to wait. Repotted for the time being, we were taking root, and those Friday nights were watering us.    

It would be many more years before I would find yoga. My children would grow up, and then I would, too! They flew the coop first, jetting off to college within a year of each other, and I was the last to go, jetting all the way down the street to my first full-time job since before they were born. And what a big turn that was for me! My Friday nights became a breather again, this time in between my work week and my weekend. With my new schedule filled to the brim, it never occurred to me to look for anything more.           

But, as it turns out, just because we aren’t looking, doesn’t mean that something’s not around the corner, just waiting for us to make that turn. And that’s how I discovered yoga. I literally turned the corner, and there it was, outside my car window! I’d been on my way to the neighborhood shopping center, and when I made the turn, I spotted the new sign above the old video store. It simply said, “Yoga.” That would be the first of many times I’d see that sign. Like a favorite movie, I’d watch it all over again, until that fateful day that I dropped in.   

Right away, I loved the practice! Yoga was like Twister, the game from my childhood. While trying not to fall, we’d put our hands and feet here and there and twist and turn in all sorts of directions. The practice was hard, but it was also fun! From the very beginning, I was eager to learn, so I paid close attention to all the directions, even though I struggled with some. Apparently, I had some inhibitions to overcome. But I persevered, because it felt good to move. And that perseverance, coupled with a lot of encouragement and some very patient instruction, helped me turn some corners that I hadn’t even known were there.   

And so I made a deal with myself to keep practicing, because I liked how it felt to flow like this, not just on the mat, but also around those corners. Each revolution was an evolution, and the practice propelled me. And that was a good thing, because, as it turned out, the practice made for a lot of turns! In fact, that’s how I found teaching. After several years of practicing, teaching was what was around one of those corners, and so I made the turn and signed up for the training.

And that’s where I met an expert on turning. Another trainee, he was a dancer who’d been turning from the young age of three. And whenever I’d turn upside down, he’d claim to see a dancer in me! He said that he could tell I felt good there, as if it was a natural place for me to be.

“I always felt good turning,” he said, “so I can understand.”

Turning, he said, made him feel protected and on top of things. And while he knew that I preferred my turns upside down, I knew that he preferred his by spinning around. Maybe that’s why, at the end of the training, the instructor insisted that he perform several pirouettes before getting his certificate. He had never danced for us before, but he quickly agreed. He had so many turns inside of him that it wasn’t going to be a problem conjuring them.

“Watch your heads!” he said.

We scooted back to make room for what we were about to see, and then we cheered as he easily set them free. We watched as he spun, releasing his turns, one by one. In multiple revolutions, he propelled himself across the floor before arriving in a gentle landing on the other side.           

And I wondered: Did he even know that his turns were a gift? Or that they were evidence of fearlessness?

I looked down at my own certificate and thought of the many turns that had landed me here. With those in mind, I guessed I’d been practicing long before I ever saw that neighborhood sign. In many ways, by that time, I’d long been putting my hands and feet here and there, twisting and turning in all sorts of directions, while trying not to fall. And now I had learned how to teach the practice, so that I could help others do the same.

The energy of his impromptu performance hung in the air like an invisible sign that read, “Turn here!” And I could feel it directing us around the next bend, where it promised that we might find that same energy again. And, so, while I couldn’t see it then, I followed that sign like I had the other, and now I’ve started teaching yoga!

And I’m surprised by how much I like it! Mostly, I’m surprised by how at home I feel when I teach. I turn on the music and start the class, and I feel as if I’m where I should be. And my goal is to make everyone else in the room feel that same way, too. And so, when I call the class to the top of their mats, I ask them to set an intention. And then I tell them that it’s okay if they don’t have one. If that’s the case, I say, then just flow with me and see what’s learned, because I’ll be teaching from all the corners I’ve turned.  

 

 

Magic

Magic

“Oh honey, it's a magical, magical life, life, life.” ~ Magic, Sia

I almost slept through my alarm this morning! The song on the radio that woke me up was hovering between two stations, and I almost didn’t hear it.  

That might not make much sense to someone who’s younger than I am and may never have owned a clock radio, but mine has been my alarm for more than three decades, and it’s still kicking! It’s just that today, as is so often the case, the dial is a little off kilter. And in my first waking thought, I decide that I’ll fix it later. Without looking, I reach over and turn it off. I’m up, and I’ve got enough time to make it to morning yoga!

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Repeating Numbers

Repeating Numbers

“A B C. It’s easy as 1 2 3, as simple as do re mi, A B C, 1 2 3 … “ ~ ABC, Jackson Five

I was at yoga the other night for an eight o’clock class, and, for the first time in years, the instructor was running late. But that was okay with us, as we ourselves had lost track of time. We were all happily seated in the practice room, visiting each other’s mats, chatting and catching up from the week.

The door finally opened. It was the instructor. 

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said. “It’s already 8:08!”

808 is a significant number for me. When I was a little girl, my parents encouraged my siblings and I to learn our home address by heart. That way, if we were ever to get lost, we would be able to tell someone where we lived. Our street number was 808, an easy enough number to remember. I remember practicing my address earnestly, reciting it over and over, like the words of a favorite song. As a result, the lyrics embedded themselves so deeply in my consciousness that, to this day, 808 is a number that’s as fresh in my mind as it was when I was a child.     

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Prayer

Prayer

“I pray you’ll be our eyes and watch us where we go and help us to be wise in times when we don’t know.” ~ The Prayer, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli

It’s Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish New Year. It’s the Day of Atonement, the day when we fast and ask G-d for his forgiveness for any and all of our sins. All day we pray to be entered into the Book of Life, and when the sun sets, the gate on this opportunity closes until this same time next year, when we get to pray for forgiveness again.

This year, the High Holiday has fallen on a Saturday. I wake up and brew some coffee and then mix up a green shake. I tend to faint when I fast, and so it’s been a while since I have. And with my children all grown up, I no longer belong to a synagogue. And so these days I opt to spend the high holidays at hot yoga, where I’m always able to find something spiritual in the sweat. Today I shower and sign up for class and leave the house with my hair still wet.

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Compassion

Compassion

“Well this good I’ve found, I spent all this time tryna find my way here.” ~ This Feeling, Alabama Shakes

It’s almost dark, and I’m looking at the world from upside down.

I am dripping in a backbend in a room that’s heated to almost 100 degrees. Upside down in my arc, I look out the back windows and see people gliding by, taking footsteps on the sky. A little girl stops to wave. She wants to say hi.

This is the peak of the practice. We’ve finished all of the standing poses, and we’ve warmed up our backs on the mats. We’ve rounded our spines in Camel and Locust and Bow, and we’ve already done our first Bridge. And now the count is on for Wheel.

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Agony

Agony

This is agony, but it’s still a thrill for me. ~ Agony, Paloma Faith

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

These are the words of the great poet and storyteller, Maya Angelou. I’m guessing she knew a thing or two about agony, because she spent her lifetime writing her stories.

By comparison, I’ve only spent about a moment of mine. And that’s because, before yoga, I didn’t even know I had any stories inside of me, much less any kind of agony.

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Shapes

Shapes

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, well it’s a hard, and it’s a hard. It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall. ~ A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Leon Russell

I love the rain. I love any kind of rain.

In fact, the other day after practice, the skies opened up in what I can only describe as a deluge. All the yogis hovered inside the door, waiting for the rain to let up. I wished everybody a good night and flowed right through them like a river into the ocean, eagerly heading out.

I was drenched by the time I reached my car and had to wrap myself in yoga towels for the ride home!

So when I saw that a fellow blogger had written a post titled, The Rain, I clicked on it in the same eager way as I had stepped out into that storm. I was anxious to see what she had to say about the rain.

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Bare Feet

Bare Feet

I’m trying to remember why I was afraid to be myself and let the covers fall away. ~ Naked, Avril Lavigne

I climb three flights of stairs to get to my yoga class.

And when I reach the top I am greeted by dozens of shoes. It’s warm outside and the landing is a maze of flip flops and sandals.

I stop and stare at the shoes. For some reason I am so happy to see them, as if I’ve been greeted by the people they fit! I don’t know why I feel this way. They belong to those in the class before mine, and I don’t even know whose they are! But here are their shoes, their spirits still in them, standing to greet me.

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Fierce

Fierce

What’s in a name? That which we call a  rose by any other name would smell as sweet. ~Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

I met a man named Adeoye.

I’d met him before. He works in a store I frequent when I arrive at yoga too early and need a place to go before class.

I didn’t know his name then. He is a beautiful man, with a beautiful voice and smile to match, who serves as the greeter for the store.

And he does a good job greeting. I even remember what he said the first time he greeted me. He paid me a compliment. He told me I looked fierce.

I smiled back and thanked him. It was early on a weekend morning, and I was feeling far from fierce. I was dressed in a hodgepodge outfit with my hair half done. I had blown out my bangs but left the rest to dry in every direction. Wearing barely any makeup, I had on my yoga gear and what I call my supersonic socks, the rugby socks my son had bought while backpacking abroad. Emblazoned with the words,

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UNFOLD YOUR MAT, UNFOLD YOURSELF

UNFOLD YOUR MAT, UNFOLD YOURSELF

It's said that yoga can open up a person. It did that for me, and out came 270 pages! My book is up on Amazon (available here)! It's a collection of my essays, edited into sections of 15 Healing Truths. I am very grateful to my teachers and my fellow yogis and my readers for helping to make this happen. 

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Sisters

Sisters

"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies." ~ Aristotle

The other night at yoga, we practiced with our eyes shut.

We moved without seeing for 75 minutes. Apparently, it was the night to focus on our Third Eye, the body’s energy center for insight and intuition.

I, myself, am more focused on not falling. And, I have to admit that I open my eyes a few times.

The first time is to make sure I’m not the only one with eyes closed, which, of course, makes me the only one with eyes open. The second time is to check the pose. And a couple more times, I have to say, is because I just can’t help it!

Aside from that, I move deliberately through darkness with those around me, listening to the matching melodies of the instructor’s voice and the music. Periodically, we sit back on our heels and bring our hands to forehead center for a look inside.

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Home

Home

here's no place like home, and home can be any place.

I’ve never ventured too far from home.

I grew up down the street from where I now live. I went to the local university, and my biggest move came after college when I left campus for what was then my ultimate destination—a downtown Mary Tyler Moore studio apartment.

To this day, even though I am hardly home, I remain a homebody.

Having a home base has always secured and centered me, even though its location has changed half a dozen times.

At this point in my life, I am surprised to find another home at yet another location, this one being my yoga mat.

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Confessions

Confessions

We all carry some secrets, large and small.

The small ones are universal. They are the everyday thoughts we keep quiet as we walk around doing whatever it is that we do.

And what I do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning is yoga.

For the most part, the practice clears my head. Whatever is on my mind seems to leave through the music and the movement.

After one such practice, a fellow yogi walked up to me to compliment my poses.

How long have you been doing yoga? he asked.

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Sweat

Sweat

Most often I practice yoga in the morning, but the other day, I practiced at night.

I arrived dressed in work heels, work make up and work hair.

I grabbed the keys to the changing room and peeled off the day, putting on my yoga pants and top and taking off the shoes I had been in since 7:30 a.m.

It had been a long day, but something was still missing.

I had not yet sweat!

Before yoga, I had never worked out. I was raised to be a lady, and being a lady and sweating never quite equated for me.

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Movement

Movement

From one day to the next, I look forward to yoga.

It has been more than a year since I first stepped into the studio, and I never tire of it.

I like preparing to go. I like being there. I like the workout.

And, in turn, I like whatever it is I am doing afterwards.

The after effects of each class stay with me until the next class, and so I go as often as I can.

It is a good place, and it puts me in a good space.

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A Child

A Child

Am I supposed to heed a message when I hear the same thing more than once from two unrelated sources?

I am thinking so, even if it is a message I do not want to hear.

The message today: In many respects, I am like a child.

At my age, how can this be?

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Warrior

Warrior

We were standing in Warrior II, a pose that at one time was my favorite pose.

Arms extend front to back, the legs lunge forward, and the hips open to the side.

At one time, Ihad thought this pose was easy. Now, I beg to differ.

95 degree heat. Sweat dripping down every part of my body.

The class is an army of warriors, and the instructor is our commander, pointing out minor adjustments to everyone in the room.

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Chicken Little

Chicken Little

When I was little, the mean girl in the neighborhood just terrorized us.

I was five or six years old and hung with my sister, older by a year. I felt safe with her. This girl would sometimes join the other kids from the block when we played outside in our backyard.

One day the mean girl pointed to the sky.

We looked up and saw an airplane’s leftover white trail cutting the sky in two.

The sky is falling, she hollered! The sky is falling!

My sister ran, and I followed, convinced the white line had sliced the sky from the air.

We yanked open the screen door to the kitchen and let it slam behind us, considering ourselves safe on the inside while we peered fearfully at the sky outside.

I am afraid to say that I have sort of relived this scenario as an adult.

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