I haven’t written much on the blog about Lent this year. It is not because it is not on my mind.
In fact, I’ve been writing about it elsewhere everyday hoping one day my string of thoughts will come together in another devotional book.
But there is another reason I haven’t written about Lenten matters. I’ve been a bit conflicted in how I feel about Lent this year. I didn’t give up anything except for the load of odds and ends we cleared and out and sold at a yard sale/give away, which I did not consider a sacrifice.
In fact, I have been eating chocolate and sweets like a madwoman, almost as if I am rubbing my lack of fasting in Lent’s face. I have even already broken into the Easter candy, a fact that my children would condemn me for. But frankly, I don’t care.
For I have already given up a lot this year.
So much so that I feel no need to add chocolate or cookies to the list.
Back in August when my neck muscles and mental health decided to give out at the same time (yeah six months later I get that’s related), I gave up a lot.
I gave up being able to drive my kids to school for two weeks while I was on either on muscle relaxers or incredibly sore and stiff necked.
I gave up being able to clean my house and grocery shop by myself (I never before realized how heavy and hard to push a grocery cart is until I became injured).
I gave up pain free days.
I gave up having any concept of myself as a healthy, together individual.
As time passed I slowly began to heal thanks to a good physical therapist, massage therapist, psychiatrist, counselor, and my family and friends.
Today I am much better than I was six months ago, and for that I thank God.
But there are still things I can’t do.
I can’t swim laps anymore.
I can’t manage to do my physical therapy exercises without the need to apply CryoDerm every night to my neck and shoulder. Yeah, just ask my husband how sexy that is.
I can’t go a day without taking my anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicine.
And maybe worst of all, I can’t practice yoga.
My physical therapist asked me to stop my yoga practice so we could retrain my muscles to work without straining my jaw/neck/shoulders with every move. I realized how bad it had gotten when she asked me to engage my inner thigh with a particular exercise and I couldn’t do it without clenching my jaw. Now I am in teeth braces to fix my jaw issues and doing all kinds of exercises designed to strengthen my core and lower body while I learn to relax my upper muscles that are so worn out from over use.
I would have argued with my PT, but when I tried to do the modified planks and cat poses she has me working on, I feel it. I have to literally chant to myself, “no neck, no chest” while I breath into my back and core to help them wake up. It is strange enough to do that in my own home, much less in front of a class of people.
To help you understand the magnitude of this loss, I’ll remind you I am a yoga teacher. Somehow throughout all this trauma and drama I have continued to teach three yoga classes a week. It helps that I teach Senior Citizens who tend to be very understanding about getting hurt and most things in general. It also helps that I have a collection of regular students that can follow my verbal instructions without having to watch me form a pose.
But after 15 years of practicing yoga I have gone six months with nary a down dog. No sun salute. Not even a full standing forward fold.
At first this was crushing. And embarrassing. My 70 something mom can do a sun salute and I can’t. My yoga student with two bionic knees and one bionic hip can do a sun salute and I can’t. It has made me mad. It has brought me to tears.
Who am I as a yoga teacher if I can’t even do a sun salute?
And then I found out who I am.
I am the woman who gathers them together in a safe space.
I am the woman who centers with them at the beginning of class.
I am the woman who reminds them how to breath.
I am the woman who follows their movements with my eyes and my heart (and sometimes my feet) as I breathe with them through the poses. If I watch them hard enough and breath with them enough, it is almost as if I am doing the poses too. I enjoy their movements almost as much I once enjoyed my own.
For having to let go of the asana, or movement aspect of my yoga practice has reminded me what the core of yoga is really about.
And it is not a sun salute.
Yoga is about the yoke.
Uniting a thing with something else. Your body with breath. Yourself with the class. Yourself with your true self. Yourself with God.
And it turns out you can do that with no down dog required.
These days when we enter into the closing relaxation, instead of ending the class frustrated or exhausted from fighting with myself, I drift off into the peaceful nether with them, riding that sweet breath into my own still center.
It had been a long time since I’ve done that, especially while teaching.
I guess it turns out sometimes it is in the letting go that we find what we have been searching for all along.
Have you ever had to let something go only to find something deeper in return? Please share!