…but I was the one who got schooled.
(Sometimes called: Gratitude and Grace)
Maybe it was in 2002. I had only been teaching Yoga for a couple years when singer/songwriter Michael Franti asked me to present a class for him and the members of his band, Spearhead.
I was ecstatic! Acquainted with Michael for a few years, I had witnessed his glorious evolution of music and heart. The flame of his message had just begun to blaze, big-time, to the whole world on its mission for social and environmental awareness.
At that same time, a transformation had also been taking place within me. Through the celebration of the “blissipline,” I was beginning to find my own voice. It was perfect: the opportunity to share this practice with my friend, who had so deeply inspired my heart. I stayed up late into the night planning the class. I wanted Michael’s first experience with Yoga to blow his mind, and leave him hungry for more. Scripting each word to correspond precisely with thoughtfully choreographed asana, I prepared what I hoped to be a super dynamic and uplifting class of epic, 6 foot—6, rock-star proportions.
The plot thickens:
Back then, there was a very sweet goddess working as part of the Spearhead road crew. A spinal injury from a car accident had left her in a wheelchair and happy to be alive. I absolutely love her. It was a joy to see her wheeling toward me the morning of the practice. When she asked to join the class my heart knew nothing but, “Yes!”
“We will just have to adapt;” I said, “modify the poses.” We took her out of the chair and sat her onto a yoga mat. When her first forward fold turned into a face plant, I panicked! WHAT had I been thinking?!? Her spine lacked the strength to rise. She needed my help. I took a deep breath, suspended my devastated ego and sat down right behind her. As she relaxed into my offering, we began to move together, as one.
That was the moment that everything changed.
I had started the day with an effort to be some great and impressive teacher. Here, in the sweet humility of this embrace, I was the one learning. The voice of my dharma was unmistakably beckoning, and I was stoked to answer the call. Absolutely inspired, I sought out ways that I could continue to share yoga with people in chairs. And that was just the beginning.
A couple years later, I met the courageous and inspirational Chanda Hinton whose personal trauma and transcendence inspired her to organize the Chanda Plan Foundation, which brings integrative therapies (including Yoga) to people with spinal cord injuries.
Chanda introduced me to Matthew Sanford. Matthew survived a car accident as a teenager that left him paralyzed from the chest down and living in a wheel chair. Yoga practice had broaden the awareness of his capabilities on a subtle level. It had freed him from negativity and despair and brought him optimal physical health. He began teaching Adaptive Yoga for people with “disabilities”. In his book, Waking, Matthew writes: “Working with these students has taught me that the principles of yoga are non-discriminating—they can travel through any body.”
Now, as part of our 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training programs through the Yoga World Reach Seva School, I get to offer a course called “YogaSeat” to my STFs (Student/Teacher/Friends). Modalities like YogaSeat, give new teachers the skills to feel confident and empowered to share yoga with every body— adapting, improvising, and using tools that are appropriate for each individual.
As I look down the path from there to here, I am honored to have encountered so many inspirational beings. And I am truly GRATEFUL to claim such rich experiences from which to grow; to launch into learning with a fearless, if not always so easy, leap for Grace.
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