I don’t know, but I’m open to it…
In the bathroom of one of the yoga studios at which I teach, is a chalkboard where anyone can scribble something – hopefully after they have washed their hands.
A few weeks back, someone had cleaned off the board – wiped away all the usual platitudes that end up written there, like “I love yoga!” and “Namaste!” and “om mani padme hum.” This time, after the board was cleaned, someone had written a prompt of sorts: “What would love do now?”
I wrote down my answer early on, and then each time I went back to the studio, I watched the board being filled up with the latest batch of wise answers: “create equality,” “forgive,” “release,” and “hold space” showed up. And then “let grace abound” appeared.
Every time I read these, I feel like the true cynical, existential GenXer that I am. “Let grace abound?” I mean really. Who talks like this. All these people have drunk the KoolAid of the pop culture phenomenon that has become known as yoga.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that love really can do all these great things. And I am a true optimist deep down. Honest I am. But when you throw these concepts around on a chalkboard in a bathroom, it just feels like they lose all real meaning. I’m super glad that so many people have a skip in their step and a twinkle in their eye and believe that grace truly does abound. But it’s like saying the same word word out loud over and over again. After a while it begins to sound really weird and you start questioning what it really means.
One person did write “I don’t know, but I’m open to it” and I thought that was the coolest response of all. I bow down and offer that person a Sun Salutation.
Do you want to know what I added to the board?
“Buy me a sandwich.”
Chair Yoga at the retirement home
I am in the middle of receiving an additional 300 hours of yoga teacher training. Not so I can let grace abound (however if this is a natural side-effect, I’m ok with that), and not because I want everyone to do handstands. Rather, I want to learn the subtle art of assisting people in getting back in touch with themselves on a physical level. Because I believe connecting with your self on a physical level can be a gateway for connecting with many other levels of your being-ness. Hey does that sound like I should put it up on the chalkboard? Damn, I just can’t escape the platitudes when talking about yoga. But fortunately, I do know some people who can.
Part of my training is to work with a mentor, so I chose my friend Sonia. She teaches chair yoga twice a week at a local retirement home, and when she went on vacation last week, I got to teach the class for her.
There are about 6-8 regulars that come to chair yoga. They are varying ages – from early 60s to early 90s. Each of them has a different degree of ability and/or disability. It’s fascinating to see what can happen to the body as it ages. And I tell you what, these people are great. They are funny, feisty, and don’t take any shit from anyone. They know what they like, and they know what they don’t like, and they definitely don’t have time to mess with what they don’t like. One of them has a little trouble focusing and paying attention, but once you get him physically engaged, he can stay in the present moment and keep up pretty well.
At the end of class, they all lay in Savasana (final relaxation) for a few minutes, and we put a lavender-scented cloth across their eyes to help them relax. When Savasana is over, they sit up, and we bring hands to heart-center and say our Namaste. But every single time, they start tossing their eye cloths at the teacher as soon as they sit up. They aren’t going to wait around to give it back after class, they just throw it at you and get going. There is something about this that I find hilarious and life-affirming. Especially when I got hit with a few eye cloths last week.
I hope I am that awesome when I am 90.
Usually, Sonia starts the class with a quote from a well-known restorative yoga teacher. The quotes are about mindfulness, relaxing, being kind to yourself, and they are very good. But I don’t have a good book of quotes. So I started each class with a joke. This was Thursday’s joke:
What did the snail say when it was riding on top of the turtle?
I think they liked it. I think I’m in.
Till next time, much love to you and yours.