Before almost every yoga class, teachers engage their students in a brief meditation, accompanied by some sort of pranayama (breathing exercises), as well as some yogic ramblings. These ramblings often set the tone for the practice, and more times than not, include a lesson for how yoga can be taken off the mat in some form, whether it be spiritual, philosophical or through positive action.
When I first started practicing yoga, I remember sitting through this part of class impatiently, thinking “when are we going to get to the hard stuff, I’m ready to sweat!” Now, the beginning of class, the centering meditation, the ramblings, is the part I value the most. So much that while preparing to teach a class, I spend about 90% of my time thinking of my theme, the inspiration I want to pass on to my students in the first few moments of class.
Yesterday evening I taught a class called, “Safe Space Yoga.” I led the students through a very grounding practice, beginning class by asking them to find their connection with the earth, their firm foundation, the steadiness of gravity—something that we can always come back to in any situation. Through each major transition, I would remind my students to reconnect with this base, finding balance especially as we moved into less stable standing postures. I remember at the time wondering if it was really resonating with any of the students, but the funny thing was that, regardless of whether it was or not, I was the one who was not feeling grounded. It was the largest class that I have taught yet, and I was beyond a little nervous. I’m sure that my anxiety was coming out in my teaching, especially when I was getting “foot” confused with “hand” and “up” confused with “down.” After class, I sat for a long time and thought about the irony of my lesson coupled with the persistence of my fear of speaking and performing in front of large groups of people. I made a promise to myself that the next time I felt like that, I would, as I taught my students, “reconnect with my foundation and find my breath.”
I expected such a feeling of unease to come tomorrow morning while teaching my next class, but it came a little sooner. Sitting in a frozen yogurt shop this afternoon, my wallet was snatched from my purse. The items stolen included three forms of ID, plus my Social Security card, my credit card, two debit bank cards, all my cash, gift cards, my insurance card, receipts for several items that I meant to return to a store… I’m sure there are other things of importance, but this is all I can remember. Within an hour of the theft, I received a call from my bank about unusual activity on my accounts, as my credit card bills were being racked up at various stores on Georgia Avenue on the way out of town. Standing on a busy street, alone, and feeling as if my entire life was taken from me in a flash of a moment, I felt my legs shaking underneath me and a pool of tears welling up behind my eyes. Suddenly I recalled my intention and found both my feet, firmly planted into the earth. I took a deep inhale and a slow exhale… Realizing in that moment that I still have myself and I still have my connection with the earth. As cheesy as it may sound, I started to regain my composure and find some inner peace.
There I was, standing in the middle of a busy sidewalk on Wisconsin Ave., breathing and meditating in Tadasana (mountain pose). I then found a police officer to file a report, called my bank and credit card companies to freeze my accounts, called the fraud department, and looked into the steps I would need to take in the case of identity theft. Reminding myself of my simple intention didn’t get my wallet back, but it did allow me to calm down, focus, arrive at the present moment and do what I needed to do in that situation. Tonight, sitting here safe and sound at home, I am thankful I found yoga and have learned how to take it off the mat and into my life.