MIND, BODY And Spirit
“It’s impossible.” Said Pride.
“It’s risky.” Said Experience.
“It’s pointless.” Said Reason.
“Give it a try.” Whispered the Heart.
There’s an inspirational book titled, “Waking” by Matthew Sanford. The book is based on the real-life events of Mr. Sanford’s life. When he was 13 years old, he and his family were traveling through Iowa on their way to a holiday gathering. The roads were icy and the car they were riding in slid off an overpass. Not all of his family members survived the crash. Matthew woke in a hospital, paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He spent the next several years in physical pain and mental anguish, unable to find relief through traditional medicine. Until one day, he made the decision to explore the benefits of yoga.
Impossible, you might think, to practice yoga without the use of your legs and torso. Impossible to breathe fully with lungs that had atrophied and arms that had grown weak. Impossible to quiet a mind that relived the trauma of this accident, and the recurring anxiety it induced. Yet Matt Sanford was able to do it all. His arms became his workhorses, and his breath was his guide. His paralyzed body became one of his “teachers,” and through perseverance and determination, he not only gained strength and mobility through his yoga practice, he became a teacher himself. Matt is now married, with a son, and he teaches yoga to people living with disabilities in Minnesota.
I have a yoga student who is a woman about my age. She is passionate about her practice, and demonstrates fluidity of mind and body. She is calm and happy, and her beauty radiates from the inside out.
One day, after a short holiday break, she showed up at class with her arm in a sling. She had fallen and crushed her left forearm. She had undergone surgery to set the multiple fractures with an assortment of metal hardware in order to unite the bones, so healing could take place. She put on a brave face and said she didn’t know when she would be able to come back to class. With such a complicated injury, I remember thinking I probably wouldn’t see her for the best part of a year. It could be “risky” to practice the physical yoga postures while protecting the integrity of her arm.
In less than two weeks, she showed up for class with her yoga mat tucked under her cast and she has continued her practice with us ever since. She modifies poses to protect her injury; she rests when necessary, and she excels with quiet determination each time she steps on the mat. After every yoga class, she thanks me, yet she is the one demonstrating with focus and intent; the power of a strong mind and body connection.
On a recent Monday afternoon, I was preparing to teach a yoga class on the beach. As I walked through the sequence, and searched for inspirational words that I might share, I looked out the window at the force of the wind. A strong weather front was passing through, creating sustained winds of more than 30 miles per hour, with gusts that toppled lawn furniture and stripped the leaves from my bougainvillea. I probably should cancel class, I thought. It’s pointless. Who would show up on the beach in this crazy wind? At that moment, the sky broke open and rain poured down. The deluge only lasted a few minutes but the wind was relentless. My mind was made up, I was cancelling class. Then I reminded myself of the cold days, and rainy days, and too-warm days when people showed up for beach practice, undeterred by the weather. I should probably stop by the beach. There might be someone who needs their yoga practice, despite the force of the wind.
That night there were ten people who needed their yoga practice. Ten individuals with flexibility of spirit, and the capacity to “come inside” as we often say in yoga practice. That admirable ability to withdraw from the distractions of the outside world and find internal peace, called pratyahara. We left our yoga mats in the car, or tucked in the closet at home to save them from blowing away, and practiced with our toes directly in the sand. My voice was barely discernible above the roar of the wind and the rush of the surf but this admirable group stretched and smiled and moved with the flow from beginning to end. And when class was over they thanked me for coming, yet they were the ones who demonstrated balance and strength in the chaos of calamity.
Pride has no purpose in yoga. The ego-voice in our head that says, I’m not flexible enough, or strong enough; that I’m too young or too old or too heavy or weak, is not telling a true story. And yoga doesn’t require a prerequisite of experience. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes or stand on one leg in order to practice yoga. The voice of reason often pales against the power of determination. It’s pointless and I can’t are no match for I’ll try.
There’s only one thing necessary to be a practicing yogi, and that’s a beating heart. The voice of our heart is our strongest advocate and our most ambitious cheerleader. And when it whispers, “Give it a try,” we would all be wise to listen.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.