Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rumi, Pay Homage

Rumi, Pay Homage

If God said,
“Rumi, pay homage to everything
that has helped you
enter my arms,”

there would not be one experience of my life,
not one thought, not one feeling,
not any act,
I would not bow to.

3 years ago I was teaching a yoga class to a room full of students and Teacher Trainees.  We were working up to visvamitrasana, an advanced and challenging pose.  There was another teacher in the room and I asked her to demonstrate the pose but she told me she wasn’t able to do it.  So I weighed the options in my head – “Am I warm enough to do it? Can anyone else show the alignments necessary to do the pose?, etc.” – and decided I would demonstrate myself.  As I came into the pose, stretching my leg over my shoulder and close to my ear, there was a very loud “pop”…and there went my hamstring and my yoga practice as I knew it.  I learned later that I had separated around 35% of the muscle at the attachment.  It hurt…a lot.  In fact, it still hurts a lot from time to time. 

As part of my rehab, I saw chiropractors, an acupuncturist, a physical therapist and was treated with cold laser, ultrasound and massage.  I studied privately with my teacher to learn how to modify and help the muscles heal through yoga practice.  I learned a tremendous amount about my body and chronic patterns of misalignment that had probably been happening for years leading up to that moment.  I learned so much about rehabilitating the hamstrings muscles, which was invaluable to my teaching since many of my students come to me with hamstring issues.  And, because forward bending was so painful for so many months, I practiced a lot of backbends and mastered many poses during that time that I had not been able to do previously.  So in spite of the trauma and pain, there was tremendous growth and even blessings that came as a result.

Everything that happens to us can be a vehicle for our own awakening.
Every thought, feeling, act and experience has something to teach us, even when it is a lesson we might prefer not to learn. 

Let me say off the bat that I’ve been very blessed that I have not had great tragedy or loss in my life, and I imagine for those that have that this might not ring as true as it does for me. This is not “everything happens for a reason.”  Life does happen, and some of it really sucks, but when we choose to live a spiritual life it means choosing to look for the shree, the aspect of things that is life-enhancing, in everything, however challenging that might be. Although I haven’t had huge trauma on a personal scale, I have had so many students share really heartbreaking experiences with me, and share how from those experiences they had shifted and grown and perhaps even been able to see a blessing in what had happened after time had passed so I know this is possible.

Everything in our life is moving us towards our Source, one way or another. Everything that happens happens as a manifestation of the divine.  This is hard to see when there is tragedy and grief, and I think that when you are faced with real trauma this isn’t possible to see at first.  But I hope that eventually you get there. 

When we recognize that all our life experiences contain some gift or blessing or opportunity for growth, we soften to what is and allow our lives to unfold with more acceptance and grace. What are the thoughts, feelings, and experiences you wish to bow to and pay homage to in your practice this week?  Open yourself to the possibilities – it might not be the one you expect!

Off the mat:
Stay open to all the thoughts, feelings and experiences you have this week. As things come up, mindfully choose to not label them as “good” or “bad” – just be open to your life.  Take time to reflect back on past feelings and experiences you’ve had, especially challenging ones, and honestly think about what learning, or growth or blessing happened as a result.   As challenges come up this week remember all you’ve learned and choose to stay open to where they might take you.

On the mat:
We worked up to some deep forward bends in our practice, Upavistha Konasana and Kurmasana, as well as lots of balasana (child’s pose) to bow and pay homage to all the experiences of our lives.

Open to Grace: Breathe in and soften into acceptance of all your life’s experiences.
Step into your pose and step into the inexorable flow moving towards the Divine.

Muscular Energy: As you embrace your muscles into your bones, embrace all your thoughts, the brilliant ones and the dark ones, as opportunities to move you closer to Source.
Draw (into the Focal Point of the pose) and invite in all thoughts, experiences, and feelings with acceptance.

Inner Spiral/Thigh Loop: Root your thighs to root into all of your life experiences and lengthen your spine to expand beyond your limited concept of what is good or bad.
Press your thighs back grounding into your thoughts, feelings and acts, and grow from all those experiences.

Outer Spiral: Root your tailbone into the space that opening to all your life experiences offers you.

Organic Energy: Stretch yourself into seeing all thoughts, feelings and acts as a connection to the Divine.