“I’m in no hurry: the sun and the moon aren’t, either.
Nobody goes faster than the legs they have.
If where I want to go is far away, I’m not there in an instant.”
― Alberto Caeiro, The Collected Poems of Alberto Caeiro
Sometimes it seems easier to not have time. It’s easier to not have time to be healthy. It’s faster to say ‘who has time to meditate or do yoga?’
I was like that. Moving so fast that I didn’t realize that slowing down would give me the time to reevaluate what was important. Sitting still gives me a chance to be in the thick of things even when it’s uncomfortable.
I love waking up much earlier than I need to. Laying in bed just before the sun comes up is precious. It’s time to be quiet with anything that needs attention. Sometimes it’s just nice to be with the silence of my busy Jersey City hood before the activity of the day.
I’ve been thinking about my class yesterday at Rikers. After class a woman who had been watching asked me what yoga was all about. I told her that yoga is a way for me to unite my body and breathing so I can be in the moment. I told her that in many ways it saved my life, which is why I wanted to serve by teaching yoga to isolated communities.
‘Really? It saved your life?’ Her tone wasn’t suspicious but curious.
In that moment it really hit me. Yoga had saved and changed my life. Four years ago I was spiritually at rock bottom.
I had been shoving down feelings of loss over someone who had died.
I was avoiding feelings of confusion over my career.
I was scared to admit that as a full fledged adult I did’t have a fracking clue who I was outside of said career. I was disconnected from myself.
But yoga helped me connect. Now I get to teacher yoga teachers about teaching yoga inside prisons. I’m teaching yoga teachers about teaching therapeutics, mindfulness and trauma. Yoga led me to opening a massage therapy business. Yoga has given me the ability to speak to groups of people about getting and staying healthy through mindfulness and meditation.
Last week my friend Kathleen and I were catching up about yoga and life (which is thankfully these days the same thing). She said something like once you decide what you want to you just have to reach out and grab it.
I’m not saying that all I did was roll out my yoga mat and magically things rearranged. However, by being mindful and in the moment I had a better sense of who I was therefore making better decisions about following a path that honored me.
I’m grateful that I felt so miserable four years ago. Had I felt even a little bit better I would have taken another job and worked hard everyday without purpose. I know now that everything we do is on our own path to enlightenment if we are seeking a better way.
Had a small but mighty class on the fourth floor. Inspired by a class I took the previous evening, I invited everyone to explore moving in slow motion as a way to examine the body and breath. We gently lifted a knee and placed in back down to the floor flowing side to side with Thai Chi like movements. It was playful, challenging and fun. By the end of class everyone was ready for a deep relaxation. Bolsters were placed under knees and blocks were strategically placed for maximum comfort. And then…
A CO called for medical and they had to leave for treatment. ‘Michelle’ (not her real name) said, ‘This is the best part! Ugh.’ Her friend new to class asked if they could do it quickly before lining up. But people were already making their way to the door.
‘You can’t do it fast, that’s the point. It takes time to get inside. You’ll see next week.’
I knew they had to dash but as they were rolling up their mats Michelle said, ‘When I get back I’ll do some relaxation on my bed. It’s kinda quiet there.’
Michelle empowered herself. She was going to make time to breathe whether class was happening or not.
That’s yoga. We don’t always get the class we want, but if we’re open we can find what we need.
I teach a hot yoga class on Thursday evenings in Jersey City. There were some familiar faces and a few new ones. While balancing I talked about how falling can be wonderful because it gives us a chance to get back up and try again.
One of the elevators at RMSC has a mind of its own. It doesn’t stop on the 4th floor going up and sometimes the doors have to close five times before it moves. On the fourth floor I asked if anyone was up for some yoga and meditation. Some said no but mostly I didn’t get a response. So I pulled out a mat and took off my shoes.
I asked again.
Class started with two but ended with seven. Wendy was on but she didn’t have her normal hold on the dorm. We had lots of conversation throughout class. That’s one of the things I love most about teaching at Rikers. There aren’t rules. One student talked about how she was feeling every ounce of the weight she’s gained since being there but was smiles and determined to be present. I offered legs up the wall at the end of class and some wanted to stay where they were with legs lifted in the air. While in meditation with eye pillows over their eyes someone said, “This is the shit.” I laughed.
Yoga is the shit. It’s all of it. It’s being comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s feeling good in relaxation. It’s about being here right now. Students have me their work schedules to see when possible could I start later so more people can come to class.
When I show up to a dorm and hear no to yoga learned to wait. If I’m patient people come. We are all worth second chances. We are all worth third chances.