Yes

In yoga, as in the rest of my life, I want to build bridges of connection with those both on AND off my island. I want to be in that place, that space. In a sense I already am. Yet I know I could go further, much further. I want to go further. And yet it is hard, really hard when you have been trained in the type of yoga community that I have been trained in. In some ways it is like an island—an island culture of protectionism and exclusivity. There is (among many) a fear of stepping off the island and out of the box as great as that particular island or box might be. 

I have never been very good at staying in boxes, and I get restless on islands. And yet I think I too am afraid sometimes. I am not afraid of stepping out of the box or off the island. I am afraid of not belonging. I think I have always had this fear. I think it is a very human fear.

I wonder: can we help build bridges of connection by saying yes to change and to each other, to tradition and innovation, to discipline and playfulness? To life and to death? Can we honor the island and step off of it at the same time? Can we say yes? I say we can. 

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Heart, Lungs, Love

My husband and I spent time with my Mom in her skilled nursing facility in New Mexico in the week preceding Christmas. I was excited and nervous (as usual) to see her. I knew it would be emotional. I knew my heart would ache. I knew I would feel things I didn't want to feel. And I know this is what life is all about. Love is everything. It brings the greatest joy and the deepest sorrow.

One day, in her room, as I held her head in my hands, I began stroking her hair, and kissing her head and her face and my heart just took over and started to speak. It was like it bypassed my brain and found its voice. I am not even sure of exactly what I said. I know that I told her how much I loved her. Over and over I said this, just as she has been doing so much lately. I told her how grateful I was for her being her, for my life, for everything. I told her that I loved everything about her, and our lives together. I know that I meant what my heart said. 

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Couldn't We At Least?

Couldn't we at least be more specific about what, exactly, we are positing regarding the correlation between the shape of the body and the state of the mind? There do seem to be deep and profound connections. We might find interesting areas of consensus, or new questions to ask and explore in the quest to deepen our understanding of one another and our own body/mind connection/integration. Perhaps, if we did this, there would be less harm or confusion.

How can we help? Writing this piece is my way of saying that I find correlations like "crooked body, crooked mind," when taken at face value, potentially troubling. Why? Because I don't know if that is really true. And I would never want any person interested in doing Iyengar yoga to think that their inability to straighten their knee fully in a standing pose or forward bend, is necessarily unhealthy or harmful. And I certainly don't want them to think the difficulty they might have in straightening their limbs is a reflection of a "crooked" mind. Sure, certain asymmetries can cause pain and dysfunction, and pain and dysfunction can impact well being on many levels. More importantly, a person’s body shape or stiffness, or flexibility, or whatever, may or may not be a problem for them. It will end up being a problem if they think that it is. And that is unfortunate. Because it really seems like the best that any of us can really say, with confidence, is that it depends. It depends. 

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Why I Skip

I also feel that my somewhat nomadic life of late has given me a sense of perspective that goes something like this: the sense of isolation and silos (what our governments and peoples seem to be grappling with on a global scale at the moment) is a huge illusion/delusion. This has never felt so palpable, so crystal clear. We simply cannot build walls high enough to stop our minds from expanding and our roots from connecting, or our spirits and imaginations from flying toward and into one another. And like the trees of Hong Kong, the mind and its consciousness will find ways to go around or even through the walls that others build up to contain it. There is a force, a life force (prana, perhaps) that is limitless and will find a way to live through us. It will find a way or a means to express itself.

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What is Alignment?

In the ever-changing process of living in our body environment and the environment in general, do we have to have the capacity to change, to adapt, and to flow with the current of life? In other words, is the idea of alignment ever separate from context? Are we aligning ourselves within these various contexts (and within ourselves) in a functional, healthy, and sustainable manner? Since context (like our own body) is dynamic and always changing, we too must find our own dynamic alignment within this flux and change. We too must be adaptable and malleable in order to be aligned with and tuned into both the inner and outer contexts in which we find ourselves.

The dynamic alignment of our body, heart, mind, and breath into a harmonious whole in any given moment, or in any given yoga pose, will be a unique manifestation of this dynamic inner harmony. When we are aligned in this way might experience something like a sense of embodied music, or embodied poetry, or an inner dance. Our embodied expression (like a good metaphor) holds so much more than words can ever convey. 

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