Breathing It Forward

Now that the guilt has subsided and the sense of collusion in a fraudulent endeavor (thankfully) never descended upon me, I’m starting to feel that the week-long experience was, not just for me but for everyone involved, a gift.

It all started a couple of months ago when S, who was planning to lead a writing workshop here in Ubud, asked to meet with me. Her daughter, who was supposed to come from the US to lead a daily morning yoga classes for the workshop participants, had to pull out and S needed a replacement. She asked me to fill in. I was taken aback. Speechless. Confused. And curious.

S knew that I had been practIMG_1376icing yoga for a few years but was far from being a certified teacher; she wanted me to teach classes according to each of the chakras – what did I know of the chakras, except that there were seven?! But what she didn’t know was since the beginning of January I’d been prohibited from doing yoga – and I was trying my darndest to stick to the plan.

S listened quietly as I made my case – but she wasn’t convinced. “It will be a very gentle class and you don’t have to do any of the poses; you can demonstrate on me or one of the women,” S countered with a smile. We discussed, I wondered, she encouraged, I doubted, then we agreed and settledIMG_0850.

It felt like we’d concocted a covert operation. Nobody was to know, least of all those living in my compound, lest word get back to Pak Hay in Lombok – and his trust in me (and my honest attempts to follow his instructions) derailed.

Which is how I ended up spending eight mornings last month, on the mezzanine of a nearby guesthouse, leading three women through a slow, gentle, restorative, sometimes-barely-moving yoga class. Each one had her own stories, her own physical limitations – knee surgery, neck pain, stiffness; let alone the emotional baggage that each one held onto tightly in their bodies.

IMG_0851But over the days, somehow it seemed to be working: Some of their stiffness and tension released. Lightness appeared. They yielded to the twists, turns and stretches that greeted them each morning, opening themselves up to the writing process that would take up much of the rest of their day.

And I showed them, told them, reminded them how and why to breathe. Really breathe. Deeply. Intentionally.

The last morning, one of the women, T showed IMG_1374up in tears. Her dog Lily, back in the US, had died the night before. I wasn’t prepared for the depths of her sadness. It was another opportunity – to follow the rhythm of their presence.

As we settled into an opening ‘om’ with eyes closed, I suggested we dedicate that morning’s practice to Lily. I heard a sniffle. And, although our daily practices never went so far along the path of more active poses and sequences like sun salutations and cobras, I suddenly intuited one pose that seemed to fit perfectly…which is why I introduced them to a modified and supported downward dog.

Sigh. Sniffle. Breathe.

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