Spring in Maine is affectionately called “mud season.” Okay, so maybe not with a ton of affection. Once the rain starts everything becomes a pretty epic mess, making outdoor adventures a bit inaccesible. So today I decided to start classes at the only yoga studio in town – in the double-wide trailer behind the bar.
To give these women their due, they have really outfitted this place into a welcoming, warm place to practice. I’ve been doing yoga on and off since high school, but really seriously for the past few years. Moving up here, I really missed the regular group classes that were a huge part of my city life. Surprisingly, although maybe it shouldn’t be, what was most different about this class wasn’t the practice itself, but the care that accompanied it.
In Boston, no matter what studio I went to, I always felt rushed. I loved the vigor of a hot power yoga session, but sometimes felt it only built on the fast pace of the rest of my life. I tried to slow down with hatha or Iyengar, but I didn’t feel much physical benefit. In none of these places did I feel a real community, although I was packed in with 20-50 of my newest, most sweaty friends.
As we began, the instructor offered a reflection for the four of us in the class: It is a struggle to receive. When we are sick or mourning we are often given gifts. In receiving these gifts, often we feel the need to reciprocate in some way – or feel guilty if we cannot. It is as if in receiving we are actually taking, and seek to restore balance. But what if we could receive the gifts we are given and hold them in gratitude?
I’ve had too many friends get very, very sick this past year. As we moved through poses, I reflected on how frequently I take my health for granted. That the ability to do yoga anywhere at all is an incredible gift. I thought especially of a friend whose cancer just came back. Of the spirit and depth and love and attention she gives to her body and how it is fighting her. Of how I don’t know what I can give, how I can attempt to fight with her or for her, or how badly I just want to put a sawed-off shotgun in cancer’s mouth and pull the trigger.
The entire class meets together in savasana – or corpse pose. We lie there, bodies in full connection with the earth as she covers us with blankets and lays lavender-scented cloths on our eyes. She touches my shoulders to relax them, and tugs my feet to ease tension in my lower back.
Her touch is a gift. The dedication of this practice to my friend is a gift. Breath is a gift. The double-wide is a gift.