“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”
In Bhagavad Gita
I come to the yoga mat every session to feel my presence and to align with where I am in that moment. A scheduled time of self-care and a reminder to give myself permission to be imperfect, to not know and to reconnect to the power of my breath. Yoga is a time and place that reminds me to be open to new and varying insights. Perhaps an internal nod of understanding, maybe a new way of seeing a familiar situation or a challenge to how I think, behave or feel.
Buddy up with a friend to go to class with. I find buddying up with someone keeps me accountable to going. My friend I drive with says the same thing. There are many dark mornings we drive in silence and then one or the other will say, “glad I had to pick you up or I would not have got out of bed….”. Me too, “glad I knew you were picking me up or I would still be in bed”.
As a Blind person yoga plays a special role in my life. It trains me in physical and emotional balance which I take into every day. The variety of positions challenge me to feel the ground differently and be aware of where I am in multiple spaces. This practice translates to increased confidence with other activities such as walking, using stairs, getting on and off buses, skiing, hiking, paddle boarding etc.
Some days I get through the class, I can’t turn off my mind; being focused and centered eludes me. The only energy I am aware of is my own thoughts bouncing aimlessly around. I ache, I cannot concentrate and I suck at the positions that usually come with ease. That is life. My challenge is to continue in class without self-judgement; not so easy! To accept myself as I am on my mat in this moment; the point is we keep on keeping on. As we learn to accept ourselves on the mat we can transfer this acceptance to our lives.
I began taking classes some fifteen years ago through the local community center. A few of us from work at the hospital decided to try it out. Then we got a yoga teacher to come in to the hospital and teach in one of the boardrooms. Having a consistent teacher meant for me that I got to know her language and what it meant for me in her class. I then moved out into a private studio and have been in smaller studio classes ever since. I enjoy the intimacy and energy of a familiar space and familiar friends as I practice. Last year we had a yoga teacher who taught up the mountain. It was a magical experience to be high in the mountain air, touching uneven ground, smelling grass and dirt and hearing the gentle breezes play in the trees. This setting was amazing for balance as it offered new challenges with the uneven ground and outside setting. Our time in meditation was one in which I felt so connected to our greater universal energy.
I am blessed with gifted teachers who are present and centered in themselves and centered with me. One of the best ways for me to learn a new position or work on an old one is to listen closely to the verbal directions and ultimately to braille the teacher’s body to feel the intricacies and little adjustments that need to be made. One of my teachers also comes and stands behind me in support as I practice warrior 2 positioning which still challenges my balance.
I suggest to take your time and try several classes to experience the structure of the class, the verbal comfort of the teacher and the time of day that works for you. Make sure you let the teacher know you cannot see her and will be following her voice. I know this seems like something you may not have to do but I’ve been in classes where I’ve walked in with a seeing eye dog and still need to let the teacher know I am Blind. I now always add that I will be following their verbal directions. It seems intuitive enough but you would be surprised. So for your best experience choose to let the instructor know ahead of time.
Yoga is a very personal practice so honour your choices and your time in class. I love going to the mat as it is a familiar safe place for me to move. Much of my movement throughout the day is done with great concentration and attention. The movement through the positions and meditations can be enjoyed with little vigilance to the surrounding environment. I know I am safe in this space. There are no stairs, curbs, no traffic to read, no overhanging branches to walk into, no sandwich boards and the list goes on.
Teachers are as varied as we are as individuals. Take care of yourself and choose a teacher who inspires you to be you, who nurtures you for your time in the class. I like to be encouraged to feel my physical stillness and to follow that with the stillness of the mind and soul. Life is so busy and the world is moving so fast that I appreciate the reminder to slow down and to listen to myself, my energy and the energy around me.
Some teachers use music and others do not. You may like silence; I do sometimes. Other days I find that gentle music helps coach me into the practice. You can type yoga music into a YouTube search bar and get thousands of choices.
I like to practice in the morning as it sets me up for a terrific day. Terrific not in terms of accomplishments, rather, terrific in terms of emotional centeredness and feeling consistently positive about my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I know these blogs show me as consistently positive but believe you me, there are days I don’t want to crawl out from between the covers. I want to stay somewhere warm and safe and predictable.
Time and patience is what benefits me in yoga. I have made my choice of primary yoga guide. I love her. We are almost 30 years apart in age and such soul mates. I often wonder what my own personal journey would have been like had I had her insights and comfort with vulnerability at her age.
At 30 I was running. In full gear with my professional life. I had a 2 year old and worked full time. We had just moved into the family home and yoga was not even on the radar. When I wanted to settle into myself I went to the gym. Pushed weights and constantly set higher and higher goals for myself.
I talked to my 29 yr. old son on the phone this weekend. It was so hard not to judge myself as I listened to him struggle with setting higher and higher goals and feeling less and less attached to himself and others. Did I unknowingly pass down this way of looking at the world? The truth is I may or may not. The essential truth is that we are talking it through. I am respectful of his journey and goals. But it has only been in the last few years that I am able to stay present in myself and be vulnerable in communication. Especially with my children, after all I am their Mom and the super human being who made losing my vision look easy. And who wants to look vulnerable after that.
This blog is dedicated to one of our small group, Cathy, whose love and dry humor was a back bone of our practice until her untimely death from cancer in the summer of 2018