Today marks the one year anniversary of my first ever moment of teaching yoga online. It is the anniversary of the creation of my first youtube channel. And it is the anniversary of the day my family embarked on new ways of living.
As I write this I’m noticing that some anniversaries are celebrated, and others are noted as a time for pause and reflection on what has been experienced and what has been learned, like deaths.
(I have been known to celebrate when something extraordinarily damaging dies, like a relationship or an administration, for the possibilities that something life-giving will grow in its place – there is great hope and joy in that.)
We are used to celebrating births and lives well-lived, but we don’t necessarily celebrate deathdays. At least none that I’m aware of. Instead, we tend to solemnly acknowledge the day, to give the experience of death the the honor that it’s due.
This week I’ve been celebrating my partner’s birthday and my first bold steps into the online yoga teaching world. I’ve been marking the closure of my children’s schools for “the flu” and my partner’s epic journey navigating and guiding his employees, clients, and their families through the Covid Sea and the Pandemic Ocean as part of his day job.
What anniversaries are you marking this day, week, and month? What are you celebrating?
I’d like to share a yoga practice with you to both commemorate and celebrate the year behind and the year ahead.
My hope for all of us is that we honor our experiences, embrace what is life-giving, and release what no longer needs holding.
May you be blessed like crazy, and may you have the strength to bear it.
Sometimes I think about doing yoga. And that is enough yoga for me.
During a challenging chunk of years bearing babies and growing a family, I was really down on myself for “not getting on my mat enough.” When I expressed this to one of my first teachers, she described yoga as “a fine fuel,” explaining that the hours and hours of asana, pranayama, and meditation (not to mention all the other limbs of yoga) I had put in prior to this moment were now sustaining me through this time. Heartwarming and uplifting, right?
It wasn’t just talk. I feel the truth of this statement even now: Yoga is a fine fuel. Yoga sustains me through times of challenge and joy. Yoga is pandemic-medicine.
Throughout illness and injury, during times of a thousand commitments, when caring for those younger than you, older than you, and right alongside you, inside moments of despair and moments of exuberance you don’t have to “do yoga” to “be a yogi.”
What I mean is, you don’t have to get on your mat and practice triangle pose or supta baddha konasana, warrior III or Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana to “be a yogi.”
You just don’t!
Try this instead: First Person Visualization of Your Favorite Sun Salute
Set up in your favorite spot. Seated or lying down. With tons of props or none. (Or a little.)
Close your eyes and settle into your body.
Initiate a deeper, comfortable, inspiring breath.
In the forefront of your mind, visualize moving through your favorite sun salutation. As many rounds as you like. In synch with your breath.
Enjoy the benefits. (You still receive them!)
Happy Practicing! (Or not.) (Or somewhat.) (Or Happy Practicing in a Different Way than Normal!)
It’s great to be with you today. I have more time available these days, and I’ve been taking advantage of the opportunity to do some new things that I want to share with you. Also, this letter was going to be a “Lenten Check-In” as a follow up to my last post. But now it’s a check-in to see how you’re doing in all areas, not just Lent, and see if I can offer some resources that you might find useful.
Now, the check-in. Lent is still happening, and though it has taken quite a backseat to the current situation, it is such a beautiful time of practice weaved into our liturgical year that I feel we can still honor it, even if only in a small way. Lent is faithful. It comes back to us each year as an encouragement, to get us to try out some different behaviors, to notice things, ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions, in a different way than the usual. In other words, Lent comes around to open our eyes. Lent gets us to be mindful, to pay attention, to be and remain very much awake to our own experience and so to the experience of others. Lent is empathy building.
The current global situation, however, has created the circumstances for everyone to be immersed in a kind of Lent, whether we like it or not, and we’re forced to pay attention to our behaviors, to wake up to our interconnectedness, to move through a kind of desert landscape with which we are wholly unfamiliar. We didn’t choose this; this chose us. But we can move through it together, and this is empathy building.
We get to choose how we want to live it out. There’s not much we can control in this world. But we can choose where we let our mind dwell. We can choose to savor the good. Please do not think that I mean for us to ignore suffering, or deny the hardships, challenges, fears, and overall sense of unease that has descended like a fog. In fact, I encourage us to welcome those emotions, facts, and realities, the unclear, heavy, burdensome unknown. Acknowledge every bit of it with your kind attention and a welcoming sense of curiosity. What do these challenges teach us? I know that might seem strange and maybe crazy. But I’ve found that pretending, denying, or burying my head in the sand has never been helpful and has only compounded difficulty. Because of this, my invitation to us is to be curious. Embrace the not-knowing, try living the questions, and notice where we let our mind dwell.
Adjusting The Practices
I was going to encourage us to revisit our plans for Lent and modify, change, add, pull back, or adjust, in any way, any part of our plan for these 40 days. However, I want to emphasize that our global situation truly is a kind of Lent in its own right, and one that will last well beyond 40 days. So if we feel compelled to throw our Lenten promises to the wind, we should do that. If we feel supported in continuing the practices we set in place, we should carry on. And Yes, Absolutely Make Some Adjustments.
Taking a Moment to Pause, Breathe, & Notice Our Sacred Humanity
There is a hushed peace that has enveloped my family, and it feels sacred. I’m just going to say it: the cancellation of all the fun, joyous, hard-worked-for and practiced events, while disappointing, has created an enormity of space in the life of my family, an amount of space unfathomable in our normal day-to-day. And, where there’s space, there’s love. You know, actually, it feels like Christmas. The kind of Christmas when heavy snow dampens noise into hushed tones, when the darkness of evening shines with circles of glowing light. The kind of Christmas that has the weight and heft of Holiness, the mind-boggling sacredness of the God of Creation bursting forth into our world.
Indeed, there is beauty springing up all around us, and I’m not talking about the crocuses and daffodils that are greening. I’m talking about the outpouring of support I’ve been witness to and have been blessed to be a recipient of. I’m talking about the people who are taking action, and the people who are letting go, living the questions, and making adjustments on the fly — people like you. I bet you’ve taken positive steps on behalf of someone already, and maybe that someone is yourself. There is a sacredness here, in this mess. Our common humanity is sacred ground on which we move forward together with compassion and empathy, carrying what is ours to bare, and setting down what is ours to let go.
I try hard not to be naive. I know this Christmas-y feeling will fade away and difficulties will take its place. I’m not out to paint the clouds with silver, but I refuse to deny the good. I can’t pretend I’m not absolutely loving the slow pace, the swaths of time laid out in front me, the inordinate amount of opportunities to play. It feels good and right to delight in the hours I get to be next to my favorite people.
I try hard not to be unrealistically optimistic. I know the weight and heft of Holiness can start to feel weighty and hefty. But I have faith in the practices. Times like these are what we practice for. Uncertainty, difficulty, change, and unknowns are the hills, curves, valleys, and distances of our lives. When I see marathon stickers on the backs of cars (26.2, 13.1, and my personal favorite 0.0) I think, Man, I’m just training for life! I wasn’t built to run marathons, so I don’t train for them. But yoga was built for me, and I use it to train for whatever comes my way each day.
Online Yoga, Mindfulness, & Meditation
I’m trying to throw together a little library of practices on YouTube. I’ve no idea what I’m doing; I’m just trying to do my part to put some resources out into the world. (Feel free to laugh at my novice attempts to record and post!) My in-studio classes are on hold for now, but look for some more robust online opportunities from Mind Body Align in the near future. If you have requests for practices, themes, or meditations, please send me a note.
Acknowledge every hardship.
Notice where your mind dwells.
Steer your thoughts toward the positive.
Love & be loved.
Savor the sweetness.
Do your practice.
Use your resources; ask for and receive help.
Serve in love from a place of grounded spaciousness.