January 21, 2014

Living Yoga without ‘Doing Yoga.’ ~ Tammy T. Stone

Arambol, Goa, early in the morning: suddenly, we have a coconut to eat, courtesy of the coolest guy who’s ever lived.

My husband and I are on our porch, chatting and lingering over tepid Nescafe I’m thrilled to have been able to prepare in our own room (a luxury not always available to us during our long India-travels). Tourist season has just passed and a search the day before revealed that the entire place has officially run out of ground coffee. No matter.

While I’m no longer (as) addicted to caffeine as I used to be, I deeply enjoy the moments in the day when I can sit down, linger over any kind of coffee slowly and write, or think, or read, or just be. Especially when there’s a porch to sit on and an Arabian Sea to look at.

We’ve landed at a cliffside guesthouse right nearby now-dismantled shops selling everything imaginable to tourists. We have a nice, airy (pink!) room and a space outdoors where we can lounge. And all the time in the world for pleasant conversation. Goa is a delicious, balmy salve for our travel-weary aching bodies.

For the first time in weeks, we’ve resumed a daily yoga practice because of said ideal conditions.

As with every time we start over, we’re exhausted, stiff beyond belief and more than a little moody. Every day we contort our bodies where they don’t seem to want to go, in the hope that one day we will feel fluidity with these motions and really understand the connection between them, our breath and our body-mind conglomerate. So far, it’s mostly a lot of stretching and grunting, with a few liberating moments of reprieve and the odd sharp pain coursing down the spine for good measure.

We’re talking about my husband’s dreams from the night before. My dreams can be quite boring and literal, but his—when he remembers them—are epic and quest-like. In one, he needs to cross a bridge but it has a weird shape and is really, really high. He starts to climb but doesn’t really want to. Obstacles mount. He’s about to tell me another one when a local man ambles toward us.

He points to the palm tree directly in front of us—a very tall tree reaching up from below our porch on a slant—in the direction of the sea. We’re confused for a minute until it dawns on us that he intends to climb it and is asking if that’s okay. “Of course, go ahead,” we enthuse.

Assuming a crouching position, he starts his ascent. The tree is at a 60-degree angle from the ground, roughly, reaching high enough into the sky to make the average person a little squeamish (I’m quite average that way). But without a fear in the world, he climbs, hands scaling the trunk, feet scurrying up right after. Little steps, one at a time, and soon he’s right up there with the leaves and coconuts. He seems momentously, dramatically far away from us. He manages to balance himself effortlessly up there for at least five minutes as he cuts coconuts of the tree and throws them down to a man we can’t see, below us on another landing.

I’m transfixed, but soon gather my wits and get my camera to chronicle this extreme-sport adventure happening above of our porch. My husband is equally amazed, and undoubtedly plotting the day he’ll try the same activity (I should point out that last summer, on an almost-deserted island in Thailand, he did indeed climb a short, baby palm tree with a makeshift sling he made from rope and retrieved two coconuts for us).

The man climbs down, jumping in rhythmic steps, feet first, using his hands for support. He’s as casual and comfortable as he might be sipping a coconut lassi in a hammock somewhere. Wordlessly, he hands us a coconut with a tiny grin. He’s carried it down just for us by dangling it from his teeth.

Without paying for classes, ‘YouTubing’asanas, and probably without any notion of aspiring to transcend the limitations of body and mind, he achieves this very thing; embodying a connection between his material self and spirit, leaving us gaping in wonder.

Here we are, hours away from our next ‘yoga practice,’ talking about heady stuff like the meaning of dreams and movies and the successes and failures of educational systems and philosophical theories. (Most of the time, I should mention, we’re talking about stuff like how to boil potatoes most effectively for dinner, where we misplaced The Lonely Planet or why dogs sometimes like me better and sometimes like him better).

We’re trying to sit comfortably on cushioned plastic chairs with our stiff frames and out of nowhere comes this man, so incredibly agile, to climb a tree for its fruit. His mind must know no bounds for his body to be able to move like this, in perfect accordance with his desires and intentions.

Here is our movie, our education, our philosophy and our dream.

And a coconut he’s given us for breakfast.

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Assistant Editor: Christina Lorenzo/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Author’s own

Featured Image: Flickr/Tony George

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