Saturday, 20 August 2016

Roundabout Reflections

8 years old:
Sitting in my grandmother’s living room on the beige carpet …
A news blip on the TV in which a woman celebrates her 100th birthday. She folds like a pretzel, putting her feet behind her head with a big grin on her face. She’s been practicing yoga for 60 years and here she is, as vibrant and as flexible as I was with my as yet un-fused sacrum. Maybe she’s on to something.

13 years old:
My friend’s yoga teacher mother invites our whole soccer team to a series of 3 classes. We learn about ‘monkey mind’, about ‘corpse pose’ and that if we do inversions before exams we’ll think more clearly. We giggle and show off our youthful flexibility and levity, floating into headstands and flinging into handstands. We get tucked in for savasana, with tiny sandbags over our eyes. It is so comforting.

19 years old:
How am I already not as flexible as I used to be? In my first class since that fleeting introduction, a yoga teacher frowns at my downdog and pulls my hips back, trying to force my convex back into a more acceptable shape. My hamstrings scream.

23 years old:
I’ve been hitchhiking and camping all over western Canada, sleeping on uneven surfaces and living rough. I’ve also been sitting in stiff plastic chairs through interminable university classes and paper-writing sessions with slumpy posture. As a result I’ve been saddled with chronic back pain. It even hurts to lie flat on my back sometimes. Something’s pinching. I get an x-ray and a CT scan. I see a physiotherapist to correct the bulging disc in my lumbar. We set a goal together. I would like to practice yoga. I don’t know where this comes from but I know it’s what I need. I do the exercises until my muscles strengthen and my back pain lessens. I sign up for Iyengar-style classes with the same friend’s yoga teacher mother from the junior high days. I diligently attend a class a week over the next two winters. I feel taller, stronger and lighter. I stand in tadasana while waiting for the bus.

29 years old:
I have a dedicated yoga spot in my apartment. I feel it when I miss my practice. I work in male-dominated, physically demanding jobs and apply yogic forms while hauling gear. My 5’3” 130lb body can somehow keep up with their 6’3” 230lb ones. I love the dynamic strength that yoga allows me to build. I love the feeling of euphoria and clarity after a transformative practice. I love picking apart the anatomy and mechanics of a pose. I love delving into the yogic philosophy of the human mind and body; it keeps me grounded, it sends me higher, it brings peace. 

How Has Yoga Changed My life

My first yoga class was a community centre yoga class that I took with both of my parents when I was a teenager. It was taught by the mom of a boy that I went to school with. I remember even then thinking that she had the best job and that I also wanted to teach yoga when I grew up. From that point on I never stopped doing yoga or learning about yoga.

Yoga for me is applied practical spirituality. I spent many years deeply involved in Goenkakji's Vipassana Meditation but it was so much sitting and not enough moving for me. I have always loved to move my body from the time I was 5 years old when I insisted on taking dance classes, to my teens and adult life when spiritual intuitive dancing took over as my number one blissful renewing activity.

To have yoga in my life as a firm foundation for learning and practicing the art of keeping my body, mind, and spirit healthy is the greatest blessing. It makes me wonder how I became so deserving as to come across such a great gift so early in my life. My yoga practice has brought me through many trials and tribulations in this life. From the time after my daughter was born and the majority of my body was covered in a rash from head to toe for over 5 months and I courageous continued to attend yoga classes despite my appearance, to the many days when life was overwhelmingly difficult and my greatest accomplishment was to invest in my future by committing to my daily yoga practice, to this current time in my life when I am courageously stepping into the unknown as a single mother in the world. Yoga is and always has been from the first moment I discovered it been my number one go healing practice.

I may love dancing more but there are days I cannot dance and there will never be a day that I cannot practice yoga even if it is simply lying flat on my back observing my breath.

Yoga is my foundation. Yoga is my support. Yoga is my medicine. Yoga is my refuge. Yoga is my celebration.

Yoga is my devotion.
Yoga continues to teach and guide me.

- Michelle Louise Marie (