November 16, 2016

Sometimes those who seem Broken can help us the Most.

Public Domain

The yoga space in the women’s drug and alcohol recovery centre is a simple space and doubles as a classroom.

The computers lining the walls glow with open Facebook pages revealing lives waiting to be resuscitated. The tile floor is always clean and sometimes still damp when I arrive to teach yoga. The women at the recovery center, who mistakenly believe they have so little to give, have mopped it and I view it is an offering of respect from them.

When I walk into the space, I always test the air as a fox sniffs from the hole at the base of a tree.

Is the energy in the room thick or breezy today?

Does it pop electric or flow mellow?

This energetic gauging is my reflex that I’ve developed over an entire decade of teaching this yoga class every Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

Just like the room, the yoga practice I offer is uncomplicated, at least in my mind. I know, however, for some of the women the postures might be as strenuous as opening a mummified fist. The vulnerability, as painful as swallowing glass.

“Breathe. Be gentle. Be here. You’re safe,” are the most powerful words I can offer these ladies.

The faces change in this group as they navigate the roiling seas of recovery. Some remain and I see them week after week for months or years. These women graduate the program. They reclaim their sober spirit. Others fall off for a while, the path too narrow for their raging pain.

I learned long ago not to ask: where is she? 

Others still, finally fall dead to their hungry ghosts and are dispersed back into the universe, perhaps as a star or a tree with a unique wind-worn twist.

On these days; when one of their own has crossed over, I stick my nose into the room and am met with a poignant incense of sorrow, fear and sisterly strength. On these days they huddle together in loss, like frightened deer, their yoga mats a little closer than usual. Their breathing a bit more shallow in unison.

The day after the presidential election, it was I who showed up in the room with my heart clenched in an iron fist. My womanly hips unyielding. My feminist spine rod-stiff. All rigid and riddled with my story of tyranny taking over America.

It is the day after. A man I know only as a misogynist has taken power over a country which, as a Canadian, I know only as a powerful southern neighbour. My female bones refuse to buckle under the waves of fear and catastrophe that cross the geographical border and permeate a boundary less cyberspace. But my brain swims in a soup of hopelessness, trying its hardest to ward off anger with a jutted chin and narrowed eyes.

“How dare he?” My eyes scream into the room.

And then I see the women. I see the simple room and the clean floor.

The smell of pine fills my head and winds into my heart. I pause in the doorway and pull back my tears. I suddenly remember how sensitive and loving this cluster of women are. Were it not for their raw untethered empathy, they would not likely be fighting demons of substance abuse. Perhaps, if society were in better alignment, these women would be leading us with their open, overly loving hearts.

With my back turned, I wipe my eyes. Today they are my gurus.

We flow together in movement. We have a giggle when someone utilizes wind-releaser pose to its full potential. We exhale the things that do not serve us as the queens we are—in a gust from the depths of our bellies.

I offer to anoint them with peppermint oil—with each tender neck I touch, every third eye I adorn with oil, I spend extra time. I give extra love. I receive extra tenderness. It all whorls together and emanates as light. As hope. This power knows no borders or boundaries.

Finally, when we meet with hands in prayer, chins humbled and eyes lowered, the words travel from my softening hips and wriggle free from the interstitial spaces of my belly. I let them fall off of my tongue along with a single tear.

“Breathe. Be gentle. Be here. You’re safe,” we say to one another and to the world.


Author: Melanie Maure

Image: Public Domain

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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