I fell in love with yoga during my senior year of high school. A studio had opened next to the gym I frequented at the time; truth be told, I knew about it as soon as the first sign went up. I waited for–even dreamed of–the place for months until it finally opened. I really knew little about yoga, but I practiced Pilates from a DVD a friend gave to me and perhaps that is what initially excited me. My first class was free. I went by myself. My instructor, also the owner of the studio, was a charismatic man in his 40s who at the time taught almost all of the classes. I remember that I felt welcome, and exhilarated with the new venture. From there I followed some impulse within me and started to attend classes daily — always the first class at 7:00am, sometimes followed by a class in meditation. On the mornings when yoga was not offered I attended Pilates. Sometimes I brought friends along. In the early days, one of my closest would come with me and it seemed that we lived there. We might attend two yoga classes a day, with lunch in between only to return in the evening for a drum circle.
I look back at those days with mixed feelings–with fondness and with longing. That period in my life was one of such transition. I can still see the sun rise over the bridge as I take the early morning ride to class, the warm and smiling face of my instructor, and the studio with its mats unrolled in carefully staggered lines. Mellow incense filled the air and coaxed students out of their morning stupor. I had dedication–discipline. A few mornings, I was the only one in class. Most mornings, the same students arrived at the same times, and we developed a sort of camaraderie. We were the first group to take a trip out to the beach, though it has since become a very popular tradition.
We practiced Bikram in a 90-something degree room with candles in front of our mats providing the only light, music throbbing in our ears and sweat dripping from our temples. We partnered up and helped one another feel the most of a stretch. We practiced outside when the weather was beautiful, and we felt beautiful, even as the garbage truck noisily drove through the back lots en route for its morning collections. I learned to love tea, and flaxseed, and breathing deeply.
I arrived at college starry eyed in love with yoga. I practiced in my dorm. I practiced outside in front of the fountains with anyone who wanted to join. I took an academic course and sought out studios in my new town. I met other yogis; I remember my friend, perched on a large stone in the Smokies, all shrouded in a beige blanket, meditating in the cold.
Now it seems I almost don’t practice at all, and yet the spirit of yoga is still alive within me. More than ever before, I work to focus on the present, live with compassion and in accordance with Ahimsa (nonviolence to all beings).
As I learned yoga, my husband taught Tai Chi and Kung Fu. Though our paths had yet to cross, we both found solace in these ancient forms. Much later, I would find my husband’s stash of Kung Fu DVDS, the series, oddly enough–not instructional videos. I watched the series in its entirety and became a little fixated on the character of Caine, played by David Carradine. I admired the depth of his character–his serenity and his strength. My husband and I had running jokes for a while–I’d ask for a glass of water: “Water? Is that all you want is water?” If you’ve seen the show, you know how much trouble they give Caine any time he wants a drink. A close second would be, “How’d you get here? Walked? You walked!” So funny!
Well, it is getting late here. However, before I go I’ll share with you something I found while perusing one of my old journals. I wrote this about my husband some time ago, and it is especially pertinent now that I’ve shared with you a little about his history with martial arts.
From November 2011:
“Your hands that push through air, that are made coarse from years of collision with bamboo and brick,
know, too, the still and gentle touch of the monk.
As you flow through forms you caress space,
Though your spirit is quick and strong as the tiger,
nature does not fear you, as
You are known for your compassion and fairness.
Each line on your hand tells its own story; your palm a
collection of verses,
Candid, deep and striving upward.
Though trained in the art of the warrior,
you spend many nights so carefully strumming your
slender fingers over guitar strings, though
sometimes pressing more passionately when invoking
old Spanish romances.
I love your hands and the harnessed power within them is miraculous.”