May 1, 2013

Panic to Peace: How the Boston Bombings Made Me a Better Yogini.

Demi just 1/4 mile from the finish line.

The following column was written by Demi Clark, 36, of Fort Mill, SC—a marathoner, Duke-trained Integrative Health Coach, vegan & 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher. According to at least one photograph, the timing clock read 4 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds when the first bomb was detonated at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Clark’s official gun time for the race: 4 hours, 9 minutes and 46 seconds.

I just finished teaching my fourth yoga class since “the bombs.”

That’s what we call it amongst my little family who were there that day in Boston—my daughters (aged six & nine) and my husband. My husband and I agreed very early on that we needed to be transparent and authentic with our daughters—and very frank about what happened.

In an odd way, the same self-coping skills I used while parenting them, I use today in my classes.

Before “the bombs,” I was an athlete-driven yoga teacher. I used terms like “kinetic chain,” “alignment,” “dynamic stretching,” and watered-down terms to describe asanas, feelings. The word “mindfulness” replaced “meditation” (my guru would probably cringe at that!). I love to bring yoga to new populations, but sometimes my fear of being too “woo woo” brought a neutral aspect to my teaching.


Safety went out the window for me and my children on April 15th—and it changed thousands of lives forever.

I was initially nervous to teach my first class, just five days after returning home from Boston. Thanks to prodding by my trauma counselor, who said to return to a “normal” schedule (plus the craving to teach, to inspire, to keep living)…I went back. It was, looking back, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as an adult.

What would they say? Would they treat me differently? Would they ask the question that makes my shoulders go around my ears:“Why were you spared, do you think?” (Standard answer: When I talk to God, I’ll let you know. He hasn’t gotten back to my email yet!)

I’m a pretty motivational person and I decided to “ramp up” the playlist. I said, “Screw safe. Why? Because they might get ‘mad’ that it’s not a traditional class? Upset that it wasn’t ‘chill out yoga?'” I put James Brown, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Rocky IV songs on the playlist. C’mon people, if April 15th taught me anything, it is that we are all alive and we don’t know for how long.

Not for us to decide. So smile. Live. Jam out. Care less. Feel more.

Response? Best class ever. Lots of hugs, compassion, smiling faces, tears. We are community—every time we hit our mats. No judgment, no stereotype, no ballet flexible vs. tight-hamstringed tennis player.

Human beings! Human beings who happened to share a national tragedy…one that now, as we pick up the pieces, we can lean on both 1) each other and 2) our yoga and meditation practices, to get us through.

What are five ways how?

1) Authenticity/truth. Live authentically, yourself, and put that out to others. There is no time for fake, it is a waste of energy—and your precious time!

2) Presence. Be present, stay present, encourage presencing in others. Drop the need for “24/7 connectivity” to anything but yourself & those in your immediate attention. When we listen, we not only hear – we grow.

3) Compassion and hope. Take a deep breath at the grocery store when the elderly woman takes out a check book and makes you five minutes later in line. Write a thank-you note (handwritten). Spend time with your children (or parents, or pets, or complete strangers). Take a walk and thank yourself for breathing.

4) Let go. Drop the drama of a typical day. Let your ego go on vacation—not everything is done “to” or “about” you. The world keeps swirling…remember we are just little pieces in it. Specs of beautiful. Honor that.

5) Humility. See #4 about ego. Are we important? Not really, minus to the people who love us. Cars we drive important? Trust me, the Beemer doesn’t come with you to Heaven. How we treat each other? Absolutely important. Be humble, gracious, grateful that you are still here on earth for what the Universe wants you to do.

Keep living.

Faith over fear, step out the door.

As yoga teachers, we have a tremendous responsibility to create peace in our moving classrooms—when we stop to realize it, we can also find that peace in ourselves.

Namaste and om shanti—let’s unlace our shoes, roll out our mats & make a difference!


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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