A special place in my heart lights up when students (of my generation) bring their mother or father to one of my classes for the first time. I like to imagine the son/daughter has been talking so much about their yoga practice and it’s benefits that the mother/father just had to come see what it’s all about. This week I saw many of these child/parent pairings and was moved by each one. Especially a mother, daughter duo attending my Wednesday afternoon Slow Flow class.
Daughter is a regular. Mom is fighting cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. We chatted before class about the importance of taking it easy, resting when necessary, staying hydrated, etc… During class I watched as Daughter helped Mom to get more comfortable, showed her modifications, and encouraged her to take child’s pose. When it was time for Savasana the two held hands. I was choked up as I saw them laying together and was immediately reminded of a quote I once read from TKV Desikachar; “Yoga isn’t about bending your body like a pretzel, it’s about how well you treat your family.” The truth of this statement right there in front of me, holding hands, united.
I think a majority of us come to yoga as a physical practice and are pleasantly (or kicking and screaming) surprised by the depth yoga has to offer. If you’re a regular practitioner, have you noticed how doing well for your body ripples into other areas of your life too? When I first began my practice I wanted to get in shape, then I started eating better, then I started meditating, then I started to become more and more aware of my words, thoughts and actions, then I started to like myself more, then I forgave myself for lots of yucky things, then I forgave other people for lots of yucky things, then I began to love more openly, react less, accept more, and now my family reaps these benefits. Granted, this is over a course of many years, but the truth remains that the physical work I began on my mat wasn’t even the point. Getting into wheel, or headstand, or forearm balance, or whatever the hell was never the point. Instead, it was a tool. A gateway. To begin my practice of watchfulness. Of caring about myself. Of loving myself. Of loving others.
When class ended on Wednesday I approached Mom and Daughter to check in with how they were doing (something I do for all my new students). Mom was in tears. Daughter was smiling. Mom said she felt raw, she had released a lot. We hugged. As we hugged I felt her breathe, I felt her heartbeat, and I loved her. Just one more milestone on my yoga path – realizing that ‘family’ doesn’t only mean sharing common ancestry.