Yoga and Gratitude as Big as All the World
|At the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City.
It turns out that three years is both a very short time, and an entire lifetime.
Today is my Yogaversary.
Three short years, and an entire lifetime, ago, I took my very first yoga class at the martial arts studio where my older daughter took Tae Kwon Do. I'd spent the previous three years in a lot of pain, some of it excruciating, that was the result of surgery I had in 2007 to reconstruct my left foot.
I'd been to many doctors, but no one was able to figure out the source of my pain. I'd gained a lot of weight. I was lobotomized on anti-depressants and drinking far too much --anything to dull that ceaseless, horrible pain. Some days I lived fifteen minutes at a time. "I can make it the next fifteen minutes." I looked into elective amputation. (We don't do that in this country.)
I was in some space beyond misery, beyond seeing what possible contribution I was making to my family, to the world, to the collective consciousness.
Still, I don't know why, I got up off the couch and I went to this one class.
I couldn't touch my toes, nor lift up into a back bend.
But something happened to me. I knew it even then. Something PROFOUND had happened.
Some sort of mindfulness had been ignited in me.
I remember standing in the kitchen that night, cooking dinner, and reaching for the wine and then putting it back. I reached my arms up over my head, inhaled, lengthened through my ribcage and then gently arched backward. Exhaled my hands back to the center of my chest. Closed my eyes and stood there, just filling my body mindfully with my breath.
Y'all, I was SO HOOKED.
The next time I went to class, I had another really earth-shattering experience. As I lifted my hands up into Warrior I, I felt like I had LIGHT shooting out of my fingertips.
I know how that sounds. I really do.
I looked all around, wondering if anyone else had suddenly turned into a creature from a sci-fi movie. Everyone else looked pretty normal, doing the pose, concentrating. I dropped my arms, and lifted them back up again.
Same thing. Light shooting out of my fingertips. Joy flooding throughout my body.
After that, I went to every class I could find. I was the first person to sign up for an unlimited yoga pass at the studio and I just...I never missed class. But Chris Gates, my instructor, ran a thriving martial arts center and wasn't able to offer classes more than about three or four times per week. I went to all of them, but still felt that I needed more. I was so smitten.
I tried another studio in the neighborhood, but it wasn't a fit for me. The yoga that spoke to me the most was Dharma Yoga, based on the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra. Chris had completed his 200 hour training with Sri Dharma.
During this time, I also went to acupuncture, and that, along with the yoga, triggered the healing of my foot. It became a rarity for me to have days on the couch as long as I was practicing yoga and going to acupuncture.
After almost a year, recognizing that I had moved beyond what he was able to offer me, Chris took me to another studio, YSL Power Yoga. The owner of that studio, Yvonne, was also trained by Sri Dharma Mittra. I can't say enough about the generosity of Chris that he would take me to another studio--at no profit to himself at all--simply because he saw I needed more. This one act epitomizes the spirit I've found among the people trained by Sri Dharma.
At YSL Power Yoga, I found my yoga home. Under the guidance/mentorship of Yvonne, I became strong physically and began the spiritual awakening that is (big Y) Yoga.
I lost a lot of weight. I became vegan and remained sober --I just didn't want to do anything that would take the edge off of my joy. I met an entire community of like-minded people, whose support eventually led me to attend the Life of a Yogi teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra in February of 2013, and in June, I graduated from the program.
We moved back to Texas and I opened my own small studio, and here I am, three years after that first class, hoping to bring Dharma Yoga to anyone who needs it. To anyone who is struggling to live fifteen minutes at a time. To anyone who might find something more than just the physical healing of yoga.
I still have moments when I feel filled with light.
I can take steps now without consciously thinking about them, but I never take my mobility for granted. Not ever.
I also have a very heightened awareness that every day, people are living lives of quiet desperation, in chronic pain, in suffering beyond imagination.
As I wend my way through this joyous day, I'll be dedicating all of my steps and energy to those people.
Namaste, y'all. I hope you do something today that fills you with gratitude and light and a joy bigger than the whole world.