Below is a personal accounting of a student's recent journey through her just completed Autumn Yoga Challenge. So powerful is her story that we felt compelled to share it with everyone. Thank you Kelley.
I have been practicing yoga off and on since my early 20s when my sister and I used to go to the Solar Yoga Center in St. Louis. It was there that I learned poses. It was there that I learned to take a cold shower with peppermint soap before committing to meditation. I still love the smell of peppermint soap because of it. I never took my yoga practice any deeper than that, but I have continued to practice off and on. I ended up at Shree for one of those occasional classes.
Then at the beginning of September my husband had a major surgery, my beloved dog died, and my beautiful youngest brother, he was 22, unexpectedly died. There was day-to-day to manage. As a firm believer that life comes as it does, I tried keep moving. But my ability to focus had come to a halt. My sleep and waking time was blurred. As a writer and thinker, I have always relied on words to help me explain my emotions. I have relied on words to help me figure things out, but now I was at a loss for how to deal with the pain. There were no words to “talk” through the sorrow. It seemed simply to sit in my body. In a silent and what felt kind of random decision, I joined the 20 classes in 30 Days-Autumn Challenge at Shree.
It was the first time I practiced daily so I had no expectation for it. I am not really a woo-woo kind of girl, or particularly trusting, and I am incredible introvert. There are lifetimes for me to learn about being open and gaining strength through vulnerability. In other words, the thought of taking on some process of healing in an almost public place was about as likely as me doing karaoke.
My 21-days at Shree has been a place of belly laughing, so much belly laughing. It is has been a place where space is held for comfort. I have been reminded that discomfort can be temporary. That each class can be an invitation to change. To rest. To see something sweet. I have kept daily notes of my body and mind, of teachings from each class, but a daily journal recorded here would bore me and probably stop any reader of this in her tracks. However, highlights might hold my attention. So below I share some highlights:
Day 1: Feeling anxiety and fear at starting anything new with such chaos swirling around me, I was reminded that setting a goal is not about the end, but about who we become in the process. That in the end, even if we do not reach the goal, and we become a changed person, the process is worthwhile.
Day 4: Being reactionary. A move away from reactionary can happen in yoga. During the first downward dog, I gagged and almost threw up on my mat. I wondered how this related to being reactionary.
Day 5: Crying through the opening breathing, Suki’s laughter and the sun on my back calmed me down a bit. I am beginning to feel tiredness in my hamstrings and triceps today. Maybe it is more tiredness overall.
Day 8: I notice I can really spread my toes.
Day 13: I am attending a class on back care. The focus on the curves in the back is useful and analytical work. Just the kind of thinking I like to do. It helps me understand my body more deeply. It is quite lovely.
Day 14: I left class feeling so happy. It was quite a lovely class. Lots of meditation, and talk of baths, massages and foot rubs. It was good to be smiling, and laughing.
Day 17: To be sweet and strong is such perfection for a Saturday afternoon, like a cup of espresso with a bit of raw sugar sprinkled on top.
Day 19: Sometimes life says “hello, the time has come and I will not allow you to avoid this anymore.”
As I finish the Challenge, I think about hope and healing. I was reminded in a class this week that yoga is medicine. Intellectually I know and have studied the idea that language restricts emotions and dulls our direct interaction with the world. I have brushed up against this experience from time to time. Previously I had always reconciled it. Not this time. I needed my body and my heart to carry me through it. For this, yoga was certainly my medicine. It provided the language for my body to express its sorrow, and joy. As I am learning, it is giving my brain a break from having to find words for everything. I have barely begun to experience this in 21 days. In that, there is Hope.
As I sit here and put this into words, it is ironic. That is my play: words or no words. To learn to let my body have her language too. And my heart. Without words getting in the way. I am certainly not the first or the last to find the space between experience and words, or to find the medicine in yoga. I cannot claim any Aha! Many much wiser human beings have claims to that. To them, to the teachers at Shree, I have much gratitude. Participating in the Autumn Challenge at Shree has been a Hope to me. It has provided lesson and space, and given me a glimpse, to help my body and my heart express sorrow and joy, and deal with pain with a lovely form of medicine.
More great writing from Kelley Tredwin can be found at livetaos.com