The Saraswati Effect

IMG_9844Today, not surprisingly, this being the island of the gods, is another day of celebration: Hari Raya Saraswati, when Balinese people pray and give thanks to the goddess of knowledge, creativity and enlightenment. Saraswati day is celebrated every six months according to the Balinese calendar, thus twice a year. It’s a major festival when adults and children dressed in traditional clothing, place offerings in schools, temples and on the strIMG_9842eets.

Even though the act of reading is traditionally forbidden on this day, students bring books and offerings to their gurus (teachers), asking for knowledge and blessings.

I too might have done the same, might have brought a little gift to my teacher – my yoga teacher. But I am banned from class. Well, not exactly, and not by her. But, as of last week, I have been under strict instructions: until further notice, no massages, no swimming, no yoga. As in none, verboten, taboo, no exceptions and don’t even think about it.

What? No YOGA?! When I first heard those words, I felt my entire body seize then go limp. Like a drug addict, I mentally schemed to disregard those instructions, felt certain that I simply would be unable (unwilling?) to uphold this promise. What would my days be like without yoga? How would my body cope without a twice-weekly fix of Iyengar? I could already anticipate the withdrawal symptoms. It was out of the question.

Then, last Saturday morning, arriving early to class, I explained the situation to my teacher, told her I didn’t think I could abide by those prohibitions, least of all backing out of yoga. She listened quietly, and finally told me that I was welcome to come to class and do as I wanted; I would figure out myself if and when it was advisable for me to stop.

I entered theIMG_9466 studio, unfurled the mat, lay on my back with a bolster and blanket cushioning my backside. I closed my eyes and breathed, waiting for the class to begin. Ten seconds hadn’t passed when an extraordinary image suddenly materialized before my eyes, crystal-clear, so startling me that when the message clicked, the floodgates opened to tears.

It was a scene of a farm (not a Balinese farm, more like a North American style), the barn and a towering silo catching my attention front and center. It was a slight derivation, but still: The silo referred to the silo effect – taken from the idea that each farm storage silo is designated for one specific grain. The integrity of the grains (ie information or actions) in each silo must be kept intact. I immediately understood: By tacit agreement, I had entered a silo which meant I was implicitly expected to comply. This ‘silo’ had to be isolated, kept pure in intent and action so as not to be ‘infected’ with materials, guidance, rules or activities from another.IMG_9745

And so, I remained horizontal, almost immobile for the remainder of the class. A couple of very gentle twists, very slow movements, and a whole lot of corpse pose.

This morning, I took a short cut to the organic market, walking through the grounds the yoga studio. As I watched the class begin and heard Christine’s voice, my insides rumbled. Signs of withdrawal. She waved when she saw me walk by, so I tentatively waved back. But on my return walk, I couldn’t bear to look again. My body craved the mat, the bolster, the ropes.

I came home, lay on my bed, and looking straight in front of me, the student gave thanks to her teacher in absentia.

A gift from Christine, my Iyengar yoga teacher


  1. Beautiful story! I hope you are able to return to yoga soon. I love the idea of a festival where you offer books to your teacher twice a year, lovely. Happy Hari Raya Saraswat!

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