I was born to be an enabler. So it’s pretty awesome that I found my calling as a professional enabler. Not in the negative enabling people to continue their bad habits sense.
I am an allower and a space holder. I offer suggestions of poses, movements, breath-work, and meditations, and I hold the space for people to see what happens when they do those poses, movements, breath-work, and meditations. I allow them to feel whatever they feel.
There is a shared experience of movement and meditation in community, but whatever happens on each individual mat is a personal yoga experience. When there are 20 people in the room there are 20 different reasons for being on the mat, and 20 different experiences. My job is to hold space for those experiences. To enable them to occur. Without knowing what is happening on each mat. Without expectation. And without judgment.
Sometimes people work things out on their mats, in their bodies, and in their lungs. Sometimes they work things out in their heads, or in their hearts.
I have witnessed people uncomfortably working through things in class. I have felt their energy shift as they have personal revelations. I have seen them fighting their own battles, and moving through their own therapeutic experiences.
Occasionally, I am blessed with a conversation about these experiences after class. As an enabler, that is my greatest reward.
Last night I decided to offer chair yoga as the shared experience. We began class sitting in our chairs with our feet firmly planted on the ground, or on blocks. We moved in our seats. Then we stood and used the chair as a prop for stretches and balances.
Everyone ended class in an extended savasana, lying on their backs with their legs up on the chair. It’s heavenly. You should try it at home.
After class a long time yogi lingered to talk to me. ‘Did you do chair yoga for me tonight?’ she asked.
I wanted to say Yes! Of course! but I hadn’t. How would I have known she needed chair yoga tonight?
‘Why? Did you need chair yoga tonight?’ I asked. I could tell that something was going on. She was on the verge of tears.
I didn’t jump to any conclusions. I can’t tell you the number of times that a yoga class has brought me to tears myself. Sometimes I knew why I was crying, but often I couldn’t put a name to it if I tried.
She could have been crying from joy because we did chair yoga on a night when she felt exhausted. Or from catharsis because of a certain release of emotion in a certain pose. It could be a recent injury. Or it could be a huge life event. Loss of a loved one. A medical diagnosis. Was it cancer? Oh god, it’s cancer isn’t it?
Of course, my mind goes there because I had breast cancer. But I’m prepared for that conversation. I have a lot of responses to cancer diagnoses. There have been so many medical advances recently. A good doctor can make a huge difference. Wait for all of the information before worrying. Move forward with care and a positive outlook. I hope it’s not cancer. I hope it’s nothing huge.
‘Is something going on?’ I asked.
As she composed herself she began to explain that her body is in pain. She has a hard time sitting on the floor. She can’t cross her legs anymore. The beginning of yoga class is difficult for her. She only feels comfortable in a chair. And finally, she said defeatedly, ‘I’m getting old.’
Oh shit. I thought. That IS something huge. And in a sense it’s worse than cancer. There is no possible cure for this one. We are getting older. And we will get old. There is only one prognosis.
I reminded her that she could always start class in a chair. She replied ‘ But then I am an old lady.’
I tried to spin aging as a privilege. Which it is. A badge of honor we aren’t all lucky enough to receive. A gift. It is a gift. But this was not the time for that. Ultimately, I looked her in the eyes and I said,
‘It sucks!’ She agreed, with a chuckle.
Then together, we held the space for it to just suck for a little while. If not for Covid, I would’ve hugged her tightly. Embracing her, and the suckiness of it all. We would have cried together.
We can allow ourselves to wallow in that suckiness from time to time. But resistance is futile. And frustrating. And enraging. And depressing.
This chair yoga class was the space that allowed her to begin moving through all of these feelings. To begin the letting go.
To ease our suffering, we must accept what is. Accept the changes, without calling them good or bad. Let go of all past versions of My Body. Honor what Today’s Body can do.
Move forward from right here, right now. Listening to the body and learning from it. Using whatever props or accommodations we might need. On the floor, or in a chair. Do it with gratitude, and perhaps an underlying sense of joy.
Because aging is better than dead. And old is all in our heads.