November 21, 2016

What happens when a Teacher brings her Tears to the Yoga Mat.

Today my grandmother was buried.

12,000 miles away from here, with the remainder of our once large but now small family around her.

She was 93 years old and we all knew she would be gone soon. Still, the pain of loss is hard.

We all feel sorry for ourselves for not being able to hold her hand anymore, or touch her hair, or listen to the stories she used to tell with the most amazing old Hungarian accent that no one can imitate anymore. She was a loving single mother of five, a hard working farm owner…but she is not my focus today.

What I mean to talk about is pain.

Not the pain that is the result of a surgery or an injury. Not the toothache we can easily fix with modern technology. Or the nagging stiff lower back or acute sciatic pull.

The pain I wish to dive into is the sore wound of the aching soul.

It feels like hell. Shame. Sadness. Pettiness. Anger. Indignity. Humiliation. Grief.

It makes us want to hide and crawl up into a tiny little ball. It’s not popular or even socially accepted. We don’t take it out onto the street. We usually just try to pull it together and fix ourselves. It makes us want to pour another glass of wine. To run faster in the forest. To put on another stupid TV show. To order more crap online. To bite into another bar of chocolate.

Like it or not, it is all stored in our body. It leaves imprints on our DNA, affects our organs, manifests in our motions and posture, eyes, skin. Emotional pain is real and tangible. No TV show or next arriving parcel can fix it. It travels with us around the world, wherever we go, no matter how fast we run or how hard we try to numb it because it is stored in our hearts and in our blood—in our molecules themselves.

Today I taught a huge class at 4:30. The energy was high. We laughed, sweated a lot and worked hard. The class at 6:30 was completely different and unusual. Two people showed up. Two gentle, friendly faces. Now that I look back at this, I think they might have been angels bringing the energy of trust and comfort, coming straight from heaven just to be there for me. I didn’t even consider cancelling the class. “Let’s practice together,” I suggested, “since we all know what to do…”

The class went really well; our breath connected from the first minute. I lead the practice with few words. They were present and easy to lead.

“Inhale, raise your arms, exhale, fold forward…chest up, right leg steps… inhale one, two, three, four….”

The class went on in a harmonious atmosphere. After about 40 minutes of vinyasa, when our bodies were deeply warmed up, malleable and ready to heal and release, we started some slow deep stretches. “Shoulders and neck” they suggested, expressing their needs—so we focused on those.

Sitting cross-legged, we raised our arms to fold them into the pose of the eagle: elbows crossed, palms flat towards each other. The shoulder blades open in this posture, releasing the muscles that protect the thoracic spine. “Behind the lungs and the heart is where we store old sadness, grief, and issues of the heart,” I said, reciting information I learnt from my teachers years ago and often repeat in class.

But never have I experienced the release of these emotions first-hand so profoundly.

It took less than a second to hit me. It felt like a big bang! with just that one particular exhale. I felt it all release. All the petty, self-absorbed, selfish and egotistic human attachment my family and I have developed over the last 93 years. All the pain of tearing away the threads of connection, bonds of love and attachment as the soul of my grandmother floats further and further away, on its journey towards her next life. The pain of all of us letting her go.

What are we without her? What is a tribe without its matriarch?

Tears started running down my face. I had no choice but to explain them shortly. It wasn’t pretty or guru-like. But it wasn’t too bad either. Just real. Authentic human pain. The angels smiled and I felt comforted. We kept breathing in and out together, moving with gentle stretches and the pain was gone in about 15 breaths.

This is what I have learned today:

Grief is the price we pay for love.

If we’ve ever loved someone, we will have to let them go one day. Sorry. Human condition. It’s that stupid small font section of the contract no one ever reads when we signed up for this journey.

We cannot prepare for it, no matter how many books we read.

Yoga heals.

Not just broken backs but broken hearts too. If we dare to walk onto our mats in hard times, we can only expect healing.

Staying away from the mat in challenging times is not an option anymore.

It’s never about the fancy postures, how we develop better balance or self-control. Those are important, sure. But, at the end of the day, it’s all about that exhale.

We are on this journey together and for that I am grateful.

See you on the mat.


Author: Orsi Foldesi

Image: @elephantjournal on Instagram

Apprentice Editor: Lois Person/Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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