Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Long Overdue Thank You Letter to My Yoga Teacher

My friend sent me a note recently letting me know that my favorite Yoga Studio, Terra Yoga, and a supporter of our event since year one, was going out of business.  I thought, “Surely, this can’t be.”  So I went on-line and confirmed to my great dismay that sadly it was true.  My instructor and the studio owner wrote a deep and thoughtful letter about her reasons and her journey to accept this loss and embrace a new and unexpected path.  To be honest, I haven’t been to the studio for years but for an occasional practice.  Life had a way of filling all the minutes.  And as a working mom, taking 2 hours on the weekend was very challenging. 

I learned of the studio when I first moved to Seattle alone with my two boys.  After battling cancer, I no longer wanted to work out at a gym. I wanted something richer and more fulfilling, a mind and body experience.  I started yoga while still in Chicago and enjoyed the relaxation of my mind which was battered with fear and doubts; it raced without abatement most days and I needed it to stop.  I also enjoyed the physical results on my body which needed gentle healing and to adjust to a new state.  The experience with Carina was at another level entirely.  I have taken her instruction with me.  She taught me some very important lessons I really needed to learn:
First, be kind to myself.  I demand much of my mind and body and am often disappointed in one or both.  Working to accept my limitations while still pushing myself to grow and learn was a revolutionary approach for me.
Second, my life is a journey.  The fact each class is studiously called a practice helps reinforce this message.  Everything I do or think or learn is part of my path.  Embracing the journey helps me to put many things in better perspective and allows me to enjoy and laugh where previously I may have pushed or despaired.

Third, it’s only about me.  I don’t need to compare myself to others, either in the class, or in life.  I find this one harder as I envy those whose practice allows them to do yogic feats that still elude me.  I also look at those in the world who left a positive mark of great significance and wish I could accomplish similar achievements.  But now, I make every effort to view those individuals as inspiration.
Fourth, shortcuts only cheat me.  In the early days, I wanted to do poses my body wasn’t ready for.  I would sacrifice form to achieve something that meant more to me at the time, the appearance of proficiency.  Now, I understand the importance of taking each step so I gain the learning through the development.

Fifth, my mind and body are fully connected.  The more I understand and respect this fact, the more peace I find in my life and in my relationships.  Once I accepted this basic connection, I began to see all the interconnectivity in the world including many connections I discussed here.
I remember those early days when the 90 minutes in Carina’s class was the only time where I could quiet my mind and just be.  Laying in the corpse pose at the end of class was a respite I desperately needed.  It was also a wonderful experience I could share with my kids, one of whom joined me on occasion for a class, and another for family yoga.  Now I can achieve a state of peace with focus in many places outside of the studio.  I also practice yoga most days with Carina’s voice, which is a most melodic, beautiful one, in my head.  I encourage the lessons I learned with my children and they all practice yoga with me, when the spirit moves them, too.  I also share the profound effect yoga had on my life with my friends and other family.  Apparently so often, my teenage son laughingly told me, “No matter what the problem, Mom, your answer is always ‘Yoga.’” 

I owe a huge debt of gratitude I don’t know how I adequately begin to repay. And I regret it took this dramatic turn of events for me to take the time to start.

 Thank you, Carina for putting me on a better path with your patience, your teaching and your example.  Thank you for helping me heal and experience peace and joy I was missing.  Thank you for supporting our efforts in Ethiopia even when I was no longer attending your classes regularly; it means more than you know.  And thank you for sharing your most recent struggle and learning as you begin this next phase of your journey.  I needed that reminder very much at the time I read your letter.  So I wish you all the best and look forward to hearing more.  And I hope to practice with you again soon or see you at our next event in December – or better yet, BOTH!