December 4, 2013

Yoga & the Ties That Bind. ~ Anne Samit

It’s impossible to be alone at yoga, even if you walk in feeling that way.

 It was a weekend morning, and I was getting myself together for yoga.

On Saturdays and Sundays, I actually shower, wash my hair and put on a little make up before going to yoga. It sounds strange to do so before working out, but this morning routine is what wakes me up.

I was like this in college, too, even when just studying. I would wake up, shower, dress and sit among my friends who would all be in their sweats.

My son calls me the Cal Ripken of getting ready for the day.

I arrive at the studio and wait for the class to start. I lay out my mat in my favorite spot, and slowly the others start to trickle in.

I love seeing everyone, and a few people come over to chat and catch up. Some are young adults, the ages of my children, some are closer to my age and many are in between. Yoga has introduced me to so many new people. I did not know that practicing would make me part of any kind of community.

I have never considered myself a joiner. I’ve always had lots of people around me, but I never was a committee type person, nor did I belong to one particular group over another. Growing up, I had friends in and among all sorts of groups.

That being said, I would not call myself a loner either, but I do admit to a certain aversion to being pigeon holed in any way.

Our class begins, and the flow slowly builds as does the energy. The instructor allows for progressions of each pose, and this gives us a chance to do our own things. And that works for me because even as part of a group, there remains a part of me that can be more comfortable on my own.

Before yoga, I had found myself laying low. My trust levels had pretty much shrunk the size of my community, and I was content in this manner for a long time.

After my children went to college, I ventured out and got a job. Working made me suddenly part of a very large and global community, and I’ve come to know so many of my colleagues well. It’s been a surprise to find that being connected with so many others is what I like most about my job.

Then, I found yoga and became part of yet another community.

Some days, I can feel myself falling back into my old ways, raising the guard gates and hunkering down a bit. And those are the days when I make sure to keep my office door open, and when I make sure to get myself to yoga.

And so it is that I find myself practicing among others, individuals on our mats, doing our own things but doing them all together. We follow the same instructions but progress differently. We move in the same motions but do so in different styles and with different degrees of grace.

Still, we are all one unit, and the appeal of the group’s energy sweeps me along with the others.

I get into my own zone as I move through the poses, but lately, near the end, I’ve been looking around. On this day, we are given a few moments of self practice. I do a few handstands followed by a few seated, forward folds and, in between each, I look around.

It’s strange, but at this point, I identify with each and every person there, those I know and those I don’t.

It’s just impossible to be on guard when moving like this, and it’s as if the efforts to balance and twist and rise and fold have exposed us all to each other. I recognize everyone, and I feel suddenly tied to these kindred spirits. And although I know we all stepped in for different reasons, it’s as if those reasons are now all the same as we are to each other.

I wonder if the people in this room know that the motion of their movements provide me with an embrace of energy that feels as safe and sound as someone’s arms around me.

At the end of the practice, we lay down, and I settle into the protective power of the group’s silence.

Several moments later, the instructor has us roll to the right and rise to a tall, seated position with our hands draped over our knees. We are told to be grateful for our bodies, for the clarity of our minds and for being able to practice.

Eyes closed, I inhale deeply with the others.

The class exhales on the same beat, sharing its breath in one hushed but audible whisper.

In one quick whoosh, it’s as if I am part of some big secret shared by everyone in the room. And I am suddenly and surprisingly so very moved.

The guard gates have lowered, and I am flooded with immense gratitude for everyone around me. For their very presence has helped me find something I had not even known I was missing.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons.}

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