The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. – James Allen
When we lived in Iowa, my husband and I used to have season tickets to the Iowa State University Cyclones basketball games. If you’re a basketball fan you might recognize the current coach of the Chicago Bulls as former ISU head coach, Fred Hoiberg. Fred is a “home grown” Iowan. He was raised in Ames, Iowa, home of the ISU Cyclones, where he was a standout player in both high school and college basketball. His last gig at ISU as head coach was played out in the Iowa State arena known as Hilton Coliseum, a landmark on the college campus. There is legend in the Big 12 college world that playing a basketball game at Hilton Coliseum evokes special power to the home team. Many upset victories have been celebrated by the Cyclones on their home court. This phenomenon was nicknamed “Hilton Magic” back in 1989, and the name is still used today. Sitting in the stands of the arena, I often experienced “Hilton Magic.” Deep bombination, that erupts into adrenaline-inducing exuberance from the crowd. The energy flowing fast and loud from the stands to the home team; sweeping over the opponent in a rush, and landing solid in the hearts of the Cyclones. Creating just the boost they need to land the game-winning steal or three-pointer.
Here, in my second chapter of life, I am experiencing a whole new type of “magic,” and it comes through the practice of yoga. But the excited energy of a college sporting event is quite different from the powerful pull of yoga tranquility. Hilton Magic draws you in through sensory overload; noise, music, clapping, and cheering. Yoga slips in quietly, over time, in incremental measures, and with lasting results.
On my recent visit to Cuba, part of our tour took us to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the National Museum of Art in Havana. In a gallery devoted to contemporary art, there was a painting by Cuban-born artist Tomas Sanchez. The painting was a religious satire, depicted as a circus. The characters in the piece were dark, with sharp edges, and grotesque features. Unpleasant to my eye, and uncomfortable to view. On the next wall of the gallery were three paintings of peaceful landscapes. On each canvas there were trees, water and sky in gentle hues of green and blue. Simple. Tranquil. According to our tour guide, these paintings were also the work of Tomas Sanchez. After he discovered yoga. “Yes!” I shouted out loud (and too loud). Tomas Sanchez has been touched by the hand of yoga.
When I returned from Cuba I was asked to lead private yoga classes at a condominium complex in the Isles of Capri. From our first session together, I was enchanted by this group. Welcoming and warm; flexible in mind and spirit; eager and intelligent. And it was with this cast of characters that I experienced a yoga “first.” A moment of true yoga magic, at least for me.
On this particular day, a large crowd of yogis assembled for class. Evidently there was much to discuss among the group because conversation was loud and lively. So loud, in fact, that I had to use my BIG voice to get their attention. Men and women unrolled their mats, and put their discussions on hold, while I steered them toward settling in for practice and focusing on their breath. Over the next few minutes, the chatter slowly receded and the hum of rhythmic breathing washed in.
We went through a customary flow of breath and poses. Each individual expressing themselves uniquely. Some with confidence and concentration, others with sweat and determination. With constant encouragement to come back to the breath, to stay in the moment, to move with steadiness and ease.
We ended the class together in a comfortable seated position, with our eyes closed, palms pressed together, and thumbs at heart center. At this point I always end the class with a yoga “blessing” and the common greeting “Namaste,” which means simply, “I bow to the divine in you.” Normally when I bow “Namaste” to a yoga class, they bow back and say it with me. Then they smile that peaceful yoga smile, sometimes they clap, and soon everyone is rolling up their mat and heading back to their day. But not on this day. Not this group.
Just one short hour earlier I could barely be heard above the din of their discussions. I had to interrupt stories and laughter to get them to sit on their yoga mats. And now, with class ended, and Namaste delivered, they sat. Eyes closed. Hands at heart. Men and women. In total silence. No one moved. It may have been only three minutes or five, or no time at all, but to me it was more powerful than 8,000 raucous college students cheering their team in overtime. Peacefulness flowed like an electric current through the room that day. Stillness held court in the lobby of a condominium. And I felt yoga magic.
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor who lived from 161-180 A.D. He said, “Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.”
Maybe yoga doesn’t actually hold magic. But living a yogic life gives us the tools to dig deep within and tap into the fountain of good. Maybe it just feels like magic, when all it really is, is yoga.
Laurie Kasperbauer is an active Florida Realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. Laurie also enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes.