Maggie is a college yogini, dear friend, and phenomenal teacher both in her vinyasa yoga classes and in conversation
Isn’t it ironic that the things we need to do most, and sometimes want to do most, are usually the hardest? Since I broke a bone in my foot in a West African dance performance three weeks ago (consoled, at least, by the badass diagnosis of a “dancer’s break”), I have all but abandoned my asana practice. My mat, which has been my rollable home and 2D safe space for eight years, has suddenly become a place of fear and pain.
Yoga always has acted as a mirror in my life. Not the superficial “how do I look” kind – rather a breath-sending, edge-finding, self-searching, divine and, on occasion, necessarily uncomfortable force. Lately, I am finding this reflection beyond uncomfortable. Lately, I unleash my mat for meditation, but I am so frustrated by my inability to move freely that it receives no more than twenty minutes of attention each day. Let me be clear. By no means do I define yoga as simply asana. In my life, yoga means: pranayama, meditation, asana, reading, coffee with a friend (the creator of this blog especially), music, sleeping, praying, crying, dreaming, dancing, sexuality, and of course, knowing when not to “do” yoga – because, as my dear friend Shira has helped me confirm, yoga is lived, not done.
However, I am realizing how much I still define my asana practice and my yoga teaching based on my physical ability and moves on the mat. I long for vinyasa more than a long nap, dark chocolate, or a fantastic orgasm, but I have not been doing the footwork (no pun intended) to bring myself this joy. Why? Because I’m scared of not being as able as I want to be, which is always true, by the way. I’m afraid of challenging myself to change what yoga is in my life, and on the mat. And I’m terrified to start over.
This morning, I woke up and I felt my left forearm, where I have my first tattoo inscribed. I chose it during my yoga teacher training, and it remains a daily prayer and spiritual challenge. Abhaya– fearlessness in Sanskrit— my arm reads. To me, this does not mean BeABadassBatshitCrazySkydivingDaredevilFool. To me, this means practicing courage in the face of fear. Emanating love, including self-love, rather than fear.
I thumbed the jewelry I wear on my ring finger. After reading The Red Book by Sera Beak, I bought myself a simple silver ring with a lotus blossom imprint as a reminder of my commitment to my divine spirit, which always resides in me. With this ring, I established my determination to honor it, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part (or until we are reincarnated)… The lotus blossom symbolizes potential out of darkness, spiritual development, and new beginnings. With these prayers in mind, I threw on some spandex (observing but trying not to become attached to my atrophied right leg) and a Wesleyan t-shirt, wiped the dust off my mat, and got ready to kick some asana (trademark Shira Engel!). Today that meant: modified child’s pose, modified vinyasa flow, deep stretching, core work, savasana (which sometimes I forget can be my asana practice-duh!) and lots of breathing. Breathing can get me through anything, even meaningful tattoos. My body and heart felt so at home. I lost track of time, forgot my surroundings, let go of labels (dancer, yoga teacher, broken…) and simple was.
While I still long for the days when I can do all I want to do, these days are a potent and beautiful reminder of non-attachment. I am not my yoga practice, and I honor my body. Today I faced the mat, and the mirror of self-awareness that it inevitably reflects. Abhaya. I also honored the meaning of the lotus blossom, and I believe that, although I am somewhat broken now (okay, pun intended), I will flourish again in a new and even more powerful way.