Wednesday, January 18, 2006

yoga

last night i sat on a black mat on a gleaming wood floor in a room filled with the sound of birds twittering and the mournful call of a lone reed instrument. i had come to my first-ever yoga class. i'm not sure what i was expecting other than a meaningful workout. i simply knew this was the next step in my fitness program, one leading to greater wholeness and flexibility. i recognized yoga is a physical practice for many spiritual people but somehow that awareness was in my head and had not yet met with any understanding on my part. i had come here to work out.

as we began our first posture the instructor passed through the room and placed drops of essential oil on the wrists of all the participants, and slowly the fragrance of lavender surrounded us and became us. the frenetic pace of the rest of the gym was now beyond our borders and we were silent in a scented room with the sound of birds. the instructor began.

the instructor was a beautiful young woman with radiant health who spoke with a careful cadence and an attentive tone but with a sense of detachment. i was intrigued with her voice being so constant, so thorough, yet careful not to make any personal contact. in my speaking profession my effectiveness and my success are attributed to my ability to make a connection with my listeners. in the dance with my students my efforts are to hold them and teach (because of my intense connection with people i spend most of my non-working time alone. if i did not do so i would be completely spent.). in her dance with her students her efforts were to lead without touching. she was there and yet she was not there. the room was filled with men and women but we were each in a private meditation.

our steady, thoughtful movements stretched me and opened me. if i had not already been consistently increasing my physical training, this class would have been far more difficult for me than it was. we were supposed to be working with our eyes closed (the entire hour becomes a constant meditation), but i needed to open my eyes frequently to see what the instructor was doing. (lucky for me i had placed my mat in what i thought was the back of the room only to discover it became the front of the room. the instructor was now immediately in front of me.) i was fascinated with how she could bend and move her back, shoulders, and arms. i had never known a back could be moved the way she moved hers. i wondered what i will be able to do after several months of this. i didn't know the yoga language and appreciated her thorough instructions for each move.

at the end of the course the instructor not only invited but welcomed students to meet her, to talk with her, and i now saw she was able to be in our world with a sense of detachment without touching, yet also carried the ability to be warm and connected. this became my greatest lesson for the evening, this demonstration of how to be private in a crowded world. my hour in the mind/body studio went far deeper than stretching my muscles but became a quieting, a slowing down, a becoming.

this morning i awakened to discover every muscle in my body is stretched and sore.

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