I love yoga. I have loved yoga since my first class at the age of 18 back when I was a dance major at New York University. In that first class, I recognized that something magical was taking place in that room. That through a group of people breathing, stretching, chanting, meditating, and lying at the end on the floor much like children in nursery school during mandatory ‘quiet time,’ something powerful was happening, something I could not place my finger on, but I knew in the deepest recesses of my self that this practice would be with me for life.
Through the years, my relationship with yoga has, of course, gone through its phases. There were times when I practiced every single day, sometimes taking class twice a day; there were times that a few weeks went by and barely a down dog did I do. When I had my first child, I sat in bed in the recovery room at the hospital and laid my recently empty belly out over my thighs in Pascimottanasana, weeping with gratitude for the ability to do a forward bend once again.
The carpal tunnel that I had suffered from all through that first pregnancy miraculously gone, I pressed my hands into the floor and stretched back into downward facing dog, luxuriating in that stretch, and letting the tears come and flow freely. Tears of joy that I was a mother now, tears of grief that the life I once knew was gone forever, and tears of acknowledgment that this practice allowed me to FEEL and to bring up emotion that may otherwise have been squelched, had I not been able to tap into it through the body.
The yoga has, like an old, devoted friend, stood by my side, a constant companion through times good and bad. Feeling PMS ? Goddess pose to the rescue. Congested? Kapalabhati breath. Sad and vulnerable? Child’s pose with a bolster. Joyful? Back bends! I have rehabbed every injury through this practice. Cyst behind the knee? Virasana with a mat roll, draining the fluid…
So, when Tao Porchon-Lynch, a woman who has been practicing and teaching yoga for a VERY long time, offered to come and teach a couple of workshops at my yoga studio, KamaDeva Yoga, I jumped at the chance. Here was a woman who was the living embodiment of what I knew and believed this practice to be.
She arrived at the studio and I was immediately taken aback by the brightness of her eyes — there was an amazing clarity and wisdom in those eyes. I was mesmerized. She started out class by quoting the famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nat Hanh: “Nothing is impossible. Just look within.”
She went on to say, “Don’t look for tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. Take away FEAR. Fear creates disease.” The students, myself included, were in awe at the seemingly endless amount of energy this woman possessed. When she proceeded to fold her legs into the lotus posture, place her 93 year-old hands on the floor, fingers spread wide, pressing into the earth with so much deliberate, beautiful precision, and lift herself up into MAYURASANA (peacock pose — pictured here), the whole room gasped.
What was most striking about her though, was not her physical ability, but these three qualities that I felt she possessed in abundance…
Ease, Joy, Gratitude
She THANKED me several times, at least, for hosting her at my studio. She thanked the students, several times, for coming to the workshop. The first thing she said to me upon greeting was, ‘THANK YOU.” I was so struck by this… and the fact that it was so evident that she actually meant it. This, more than anything, has stayed with me months later. And I think it is this that lends itself so purely to the other two qualities of ease and joy. She is grateful for her life, 93 years-old, she is happy and present and at ease.
Thich Nat Hanh says, “Compassion is a muscle,” meaning that we can strengthen it, cultivate it. I think that gratitude is a muscle as well.
How can we, like Tao, cultivate this muscle of gratitude? The next time you come to your yoga mat, as you move into your first posture, say thank you inside. As you move into your second posture, say thank you again. Try an entire practice of ‘thank you.’ I would love to hear your thoughts about this experience.
Join me on retreat: JessicaBellofattoYoga.com