I taught yoga on Saturday, just a couple of days after my car accident, and it made me realize that what Priti told us is so true - as a yoga teacher you are in the amazing position to use whatever is going on in your life to inform your classes. I had planned, pre-Wednesday evening, a vigorous vinyasa class for the Saturday after Thanksgiving (burn off the turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie! Woo!) but on Saturday morning, after two days of hot baths and tears, I was in no shape to do a vigorous practice myself, more or less lead one. So I sat down and took the first ten minutes to tell my class as much, and share with them about the accident and how it really hammered home this idea I've heard in yoga classes all of the time - the importance of honoring, living in and appreciating the present moment. I suppose I can only speak for myself (although I'm quite certain most feel this way) when I say that I take the future for granted every minute of every day. I'm constantly making plans for the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year. Coming within inches of severe injury or even death, I realize that every little thing I say I'm going to take care of at some point I need to take care of RIGHT. NOW. Nothing is promised except for this breath. And this one. And this one. And now this one. That's it. The next five minutes, five hours, five days and five years are a mystery, and in no way guaranteed.
At first the realization was overwhelming and terrifying, and in some ways it still is. How do I integrate this knowledge that it could all be taken away in a heart beat with being responsible and planning for the future? It's the same balancing act it always was, it just feels a lot more real and important now.
On Saturday I led a class that incorporated solid pranayama practice to start, some heat-building sun salutations and standing asana in the beginning, a lot of heart-opening backbends in the middle, and a good solid five minutes in child's pose before an extended relaxation in savasana at the end. And after savasana I led a heart-centered meditation, just to give everyone, including myself, a chance to really savor the moment and give thanks we were all on our mats, alive and healthy that Saturday morning. I have never closed a class without chanting "shanti, shanti, shanti" but this time I almost began to weep, so grateful for the unexpected peace I was able to find - the first peace I was able to experience after the accident - in sharing the beautiful practice of yoga. Priti was right - it was incredibly theraputic to realize that my JOB now isn't about pretending everything is okay and disconnecting from my personal life in order to be professional for eight hours a day. Yoga is about truly engaging in life exactly as it is, all of the time. And the things that happen in my life can be used as inspiration for classes and themes, which is such a wonderful integration of personal and professional identities. In my own personal practice this week I've been experimenting with twisting sequences, trying to use the physical integration a twist provides the spine to help me emotionally integrate all that is going on in my life, and I thought "my goodness, I could lead a whole retreat helping people to integrate traumatic experiences into their body, mind and spirit using asana and pranayama. Cool!" You see, I probably wouldn't have thought about it like that before. Find the beauty. Find the beauty. Find the beauty, Hilary. There it is.