Why I "do" Yoga

Why I "do" Yoga

Honestly, I don't really do yoga.  It's more that I am yoga.  Or that I live yoga.  Or that yoga is life.  Because it's not really about the postures.  It's not about being on the mat, practicing acrobatics.  Can I sit comfortable on the floor with my legs crossed for extended periods of time?  Yes.  Can I balance on one foot, arms to the sky, in a tree pose?  Yep.  But that's not really yoga.

Yoga happens off the mat, when I am sitting at the eye specialist's office, waiting for an hour and a half in a room separate from my mom (due to Covid protocols).  I see the minutes tick by and wonder if my mom, who is permanently hooked to oxygen tanks, is worried that her tanks will empty and we'll have to leave before finding out why she suddenly lost all vision in her left eye last night.  I think about dad, who is so sick this morning that he couldn't accompany mom to the appointment and I wonder if he is resting or worrying about mom or feeling terrible because he wishes he could be here for her.  I wonder what the doctor will say:  Torn Retina?  Eye stroke?  Vision will return?  Or not?  My mind could get quite carried away with worry, if I let it.  I need to stay grounded and focus on this moment.

So I put my feet flat on the floor and I feel the earth below me; it's solid and steady and I need that right now.  I just remarked to students this week that "the earth is here always here for us; it will literally catch you if you fall" and those words come back to me.  I say to myself "the earth is below me" and I feel it there, supporting my feet and all of me.

I wrap my fingers into the loose fist, thumb tucked, hand gesture of Adhi Mudra.  It helps to invoke stability, steadiness and we practice it often in class.  I begin to watch my breath and I can feel the exhalation becoming gently longer than the inhalation, signaling my nervous system to calm down.  I become aware that my shoulders are slightly raised and forward, a protective posture--and my heart does want to be protected from the pain of watching my parents hurt--but I know this is counterproductive.  So I let my shoulders ease down and back so that I can take full  breaths, nourishing my body more fully and also experiencing the fullness of the moment.  It's scary, it's worrisome and it's hurtful but hiding from the truth is not going to help and to me, it represents living a half life.

So I sit like this in the waiting room, feet on the floor, hands in a discreet Mudra, joints stacked, shoulders softened, chest open, breathing into my belly.  I  allow the breath to keep my mind anchored in the present moment.  I let the inhalation bring presence and I let the exhalation bring release.  I feel my heart rate moderate, I sense my jaw relaxing and I feel stronger inside.  I can meet the diagnosis with strength, calm and equanimity.  Loving presence and a clear head.  This is what I want to give to my mom.  "Oh my God, what will we do?" will  not do her any good.  So I continue watching the breath, feeling the earth and becoming more settled.

This is why I "do" yoga.  For me, it's not a practice of physical postures that showcase the shapes my body can make.  For me, Yoga is the living, breathing presence of the body and soul in each moment.  It is the acceptance of the joys and the sorrows with equanimity.  And it is, indeed, a continuous practice--life hands us opportunities every day, to practice steadiness and ease of breath in the face of great beauty and great challenge.

Eventually we do get to see the eye specialist and we hook up mom's second oxygen tank just in time.  We receive the news that mom has suffered a stroke but it was contained in her left eye.  She is now, and will remain, completely blind in that eye but her right eye is healthy.  Not the best news but not the worst either.  I feel the earth below my feet, I take a deep breath.  I will now be the earth for my mom; I will lend her my strength, just as the earth lends me its strength and solidity.

And my mom is strong.  It shines through as she accepts the news with quiet grace.  And again when we go home to give my dad the news that his beautiful wife, his dearest love, is permanently blind in one eye.  We know that he hurts for her, so we lend him our strength and he is strong.  He accepts the news with quiet grace, thereby lending my mom more strength.  They have always been solid together.  My sister arrives with a joke and a smile and she lends her strength to all of us.  And the next morning, when I allow myself a few silent tears, my husband holds me tenderly and lends me his strength.  And so the circle goes round and round.

There will be challenges as we move forward, that's how life goes.  But we will meet them together, lending each other strength, appreciating the joys, allowing grief to release, breathing fully and feeling the support of the earth and of each other.

This is why I "do" yoga. This is how I "do" yoga.  No mat required.

In love and light, 


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