I was initiated into the world of yoga by a few bay area teachers known for their brilliant eccentricity, impassioned with yoga and its ability to empower and transform lives. My own inquiry has taken me into several different styles of yoga- Bikram, Astanga, Anusara, - in that order, each appropriate to where I was and am on my life path.
I began yoga as a former dancer in efforts to get back in shape after years of retail jobs and the nightclub existence of my 20's. While attending summer ballet school at age 14, I watched Darcy Kistler rehearsing alone outside the door of a studio at Lincoln Center, a sylph executing perfect quadruple pirouettes on toe shoes- she seemed not of this world. This image imprinted in my mind an ideal of physical perfection that originated from the ballet world. At the time it seemed clear that I would never be in the corps of the NYC Ballet. But I loved dancing with a passion that burned, so much that I felt I could never live up to an ideal so out of reach. So I stopped dancing. The high school world of popularity and boys presented again another illusory standard of the perfect body. MTV reached teenage girls everywhere, even in the woods of Maine where I grew up, with images of women rolling around on the hoods of a Ferraris' (yesterday’s Kardashian equivalent without the artificial fillers). Skinny and flat chested worked in the ballet world, not so much in the world of adolescence . Again I struggled with feeling outside of societal standards, and not measuring up to an image imposed by media and culture, but also created in my own mind.
Pema Chodron, Buddhist Monk, and writer, speaks of the embarrassing realization that maybe we are not the people we imagine ourselves to be. In this moment we have an opportunity to lean into the potential of who we are truly growing into, with humility but also a celebration of what it is that we have been given. It is this unique gift that is what we are meant to offer to this world. Cultivating acceptance and presence of mind through a yoga practice gives us insight and also the ability to see ourselves in all living beings, with compassion.
I often fall short of my sometimes unrealistic expectations, but while holding the intention to align with the highest and do my best with each challenge life throws my way, I am able to find serenity. This, because I am cracked open, wounded and injured from having lived through dark times, feeling like an outsider and identifying an artist and a musician.
I can more easily laugh at myself when I gainfully miss the high bar and land on my ass, and I am more patient with myself in the process of becoming, than I was at 28. It takes a little longer to get up and brush myself off but these days but when I do finally get back up, I am far more thankful that I can still walk and have a healthy strong body that has served me well in this lifetime. Every day I make a practice to acknowledge a thing of real beauty in my life, like the colors of a changing leaf, a Nick Drake song, or a friend who cracks me up with a bad imitation of an irate bus driver on the 5 Fulton.
Now I am in my 40's and finally making friends with my sometimes aching body, cheering it on with more compassion as I change. I am beginning to own that which I once denied in myself. I am learning to appreciate my passionate nature as a powerful life force - Prana Shakti - that can be healthily channeled into writing , or dancing again, to find joy and freedom in the creative process, but with less attachment to the outcome. A wonderful yoga colleague of mine calls this the "mid-life Isis".The beauty of getting older is that I have begun to realize if not now, when?
My body holds the story of cumulative losses - a deepening wisdom that these lessons bring. The teacher who has had the most impact on my experience this far was my boyfriend Alex Daal, who died of brain cancer in 2009. He taught me my first profound lesson of impermanence and letting go. The Sanskrit word for this is "aparigraha" ( right now as I struggle with the spelling of this word I can hear Alex laughing. He still looks like a law student in his v neck sweater and glasses, in my eyes mind. For some one so serious, he had a tender sense of humor when it came to my "struggles") .
It is through our precious connection I am better able to recognize that what is being offered of this moment is a gift, however transient, necessary for soul’s evolution and ultimately its liberation. Sometimes it is simply a small effort to maintain balance when overwhelmed with the day to day, just showing up on the mat. But when I'm there, I'm always reminded of the reason.
I love teaching. I love witnessing others become not only more content but more joyful within their bodies and minds. Practicing yoga reminds me that our higher purpose here is to ease the incredible suffering of this world and hold sacred these fragile lives we are given. To celebrate our love and to offer gratitude as the medicine of healing. It’s been over a decade since I've undertaken this noble path, and the further I journey, the more I feel I've only just begun.