Six weeks into quarantine and I've yet to post a video as I said I would. From the outside, even to those not so far on the outside, it seems a little (maybe a lot) like I've once again said I would "get my yoga going" and just let it fall to the wayside.
In some ways, I feel that with myself as well. There are plenty of times I start a project—or say I'll start a project—and then never get to it. Or, I might start it and then leave it there for two or three days. Okay, months. Alright fine, years. Part of the problem is the interconnectedness of everything for me. I want to put all the pictures into an album, but first I want the space to sit and leave it out so I can complete it over multiple sittings, so then I need to clean that space, and then as I begin to clean that space, I am reminded of other things that I feel should be done first... and on, and on, and on.
So during this quarantine, I have utilized this time to really put my space together, to make my house feel not just like home, but like my sanctuary. My perfect place to be. And would you believe it? I’m almost done! This is an excellent feeling as, for me, it means I am finally feeling the readiness I was looking for to present yoga to others, in a clean, calm, comfortable space where I can focus on sharing asana, breathwork and meditation.
Here’s the thing: often when we think of yoga, the vision that comes to mind is a group of relatively young, thin, hyper-flexible women in a room together twisting and turning upside-down into seemingly impossible positions. But you know what? That’s not even a slice—it’s only a sliver—of what yoga encompasses.
First, this form of yoga called the asanas, or postures, is something that anyone of any age, gender or body type can participate in. Practicing yoga asanas does not mean you need to touch your toes or bend over backward; it is about meeting your body where it is today.
Second, asanas are not the only piece of the yoga puzzle. It is actually only one of the eight limbs of yoga. (Well, actually, it is the third limb.) Pranayama [breath] and Dyana [meditation] are two of the other limbs we hear a lot about. So, with this in mind, my yoga over the last six weeks has been resting between the first two limbs in preparation for asana. The Yamas and Niyamas are the self-restraints/ethics of treating others and the observances of how to treat oneself. My focus has been primarily on the restraints of moderation and non-attachment and the observances of cleanliness, contentment and self-study. We spend a lot of time striving to emulate the yamas and niyamas, the others being: non-harming, truth-telling, non-coveting, zeal for life, and humbleness. These are the supportive limbs that hold us up as we move through our daily lives, so no matter where you are in your day or on your journey, you can practice the yoga that will serve you best in that moment.
During my work toward cleanliness and non-attachment I cleaned and reorganized some of my bookshelves and I came across a book called Poems to Live By in Uncertain Times. Given the significant situation we are all currently enduring with COVID-19 and the effects it is having on every aspect of life, the title alone was enough to warrant cracking the cover, but when I opened to a page somewhere in the near-middle, it seemed to me I couldn’t have fallen upon a more perfect poem for my particular experience at this time…
Things to Think
Think in ways you’ve never thought before
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.
Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.
When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.
I can imagine that someone like Robert Bly might naturally understand that anyone can practice asanas and that yoga is so much more than that. I imagine that he would see someone reading while they have their morning coffee or volunteering their time in service to others as ways of reaching tranquility and fulfillment. Of course, I have no idea what he thinks of yoga and its limbs, but I’ll opt to think in this way I’ve never thought before and I’ll keep my mind open to news thoughts.
Right now, we are being forced to think differently; to see all of life in new ways. Let’s make this time an opportunity—the opportunity to choose where our thoughts take us, to turn inward and examine our lives from an unusual angle, consider ourselves with a new interpretation, and move forward in our daily presence with new light shining a fresh perspective onto our paths ahead.