Recently, I attended a yoga benefit for Africa Yoga Project. An instructor in Africa was going to lead part of the practice. There would be a DJ and photographer and prizes. Kids (7 and above) were welcome to attend. I thought the event might draw a few kids, so I asked my daughter if she would like to come with me. I had just enrolled her in an 8 week kids yoga program and she had just attended her first class (although she has been "practicing" with me since she was 2). The event was being hosted in a vacant local commercial space just a few blocks from our house. The walls were only framed, the concrete floors were dirty. It was raw, colorful, and the energy was fierce!
4am in Africa, yoga instructor Anthony joined us via a large Skype projection on the wall. My kids are used to Skype. They Skype with their dad in CA twice a week. When our instructor encouraged us to approach Anthony with questions, I whispered into my daughter's ear to go say something. Not only was she the youngest participant (at age 7), she was the only kid in attendance. She got up, gently moved towards the computer, was introduced to Anthony as the only kid in the room and told Anthony, "I think you are awesome!" The room erupted with cheers. That's my girl.
Here we are doing some headstand kicks.
Yoga has been an important part of our lives since my kids were little....
The following is something I wrote for my son 5 years ago:"This morning you tore away one small corner and your eyes lit up. "It's my very own yoga mat!!!" There's something about you embracing yoga that gives me a sense of security. If I miss something along the way...perhaps yoga's got it covered. Yoga has taught me the things that I didn't learn from my parents, siblings, teachers or friends. As you grow up in a world judged by numbers and scores and colors and shapes; may you find love, truth, and acceptance from within. Lift your head high. All the answers you will ever need are within you and you must trust your answers. They won't always be right and you may not always get it right, but if you can tune into yourself, you'll know what to do."
We were hiking one day when the kids just dropped down to a seated pose and started chanting oms. I stood there puzzled thinking, "where did they come up with this?"
My interest in yoga began in early 2001. I had moved to Northern California for a few months and was accessing the internet from a public computer at the local library. While waiting for the dial up access, I glanced over at the cover of Time Magazine and was mesmerized by the photo of Christy Turlington. She looked so calm, confident and strong. I checked out a few yoga tapes the same day and returned to my empty unfurnished apartment and followed along with tape after tape. I had no living room furniture to get in the way of a yoga mat, but I purchased a TV/VCR combo. I attended a few classes at a local 24hr Fitness and bought an assortment of Gaiam yoga videos from Target.
From there, I was drawn into Ashtanga. I was invited to a class down by the beach in Hawaii as a visitor to the Island for a few weeks. I didn't make it very far into that class before realizing I had a long way to go- both in yoga practice and life. I learned a lot that morning- about myself, about humility, about humanity. It didn't matter who I was to others. It only mattered who I was to myself.
I like to think there was a gray haired bearded man chuckling to himself that day, maybe knowingly or unknowingly placing a few stepping stones along my path in life. It would take several more years and many more hard lessons to reset my path.
Hot yoga got me through 7th months of pregnancy, during which time I was even homeless for a brief stint working for a prominent interior design firm furnishing muli-million dollar second homes. Oh, if only the design clients knew. Hot yoga gave me roof over my head for 90minutes, but a home for my soul during a growth period that was so much greater than me. I switched over to Saturday morning chi gung class when the heat got too hot in month 8. It was there that I learned breathing techniques that would get me through the 18 hour natural birth of my son. One night while I was nursing at 2am, I turned on the television and stumbled upon Inhale Yoga on the Oxygen Network, hosted by Steve Ross. I set the VCR to record the 2am program and played it when I woke up closer to 6am. I grew quite fond of Steve Ross and his jokes, encouraged swaying/dancing and upbeat music. I ordered his book from Amazon:
Happy Yoga. Yoga definitely helped me feel more like my true happy self. My yoga practice for the next 6 years ebbed and flowed and was exclusively held in my living room on my own or with Steve Ross in the same episodes I recorded on VHS tapes in 2003. It was common to have a kid going in and out of my legs while in downward dog or on my back as I moved from high to low plank.
Yoga has moved with me. Eventually, I would move into the home that I bought 14 months ago and DVR 42 episodes from the satellite TV provider before Inhale went off air sometime in 2010. Inhale Yoga sustained me, but it was time to deepen my practice. I wrote a check for an unlimited month of yoga at a local yoga studio and was welcomed home once again by fellow yogis- converging in a hot room, doing what makes us whole, what unites us, what strengthens us and nourishes our souls.
It was an honor to participate in the local benefit a few weeks back. I understand how thousands of impoverished Africans are flocking to a hundred yoga class offerings each week. Where else can you go to be so at home with yourself, around so many others? That's why yoga.