January 2007 - Vancouver to Mysore, India.
I was back in Mysore, India. The trip over was a typical parenting moment on how not to travel with two children under the age of two. It was a gruelling journey that began early in the morning on my mat, fireside in my living room in Vancouver. It was the morning of our trip. As I moved through practice I felt a little twinge in my hip during standing. By the time we were leaving Vancouver, my hip was throbbing while giant snowflakes were falling and accumulating on the ground. Snow is rare in Vancouver; it is a city that does not function well with snowfall. The rumour is that there is one snowplow in all of Vancouver. Meanwhile, in order to bring my foot off the ground, I needed both hands to physically lift my leg. As our journey continued, we almost missed our connecting flight in Calgary due to a late arrival, and another snowstorm in Calgary. We made it on the plane to Heathrow and endured yet more exciting weather. By the end of the trip, Julian looked green and one of our friends vomited from the extreme turbulence from the adventurous air! We landed in a windstorm in Heathrow (apparently we were the last flight to land that day). Our flight to India was still leaving and we were told to run to the gate as they would not hold the flight. We ran through Heathrow at top speeds, one stroller, one two year old, one ten month old and ridiculous amounts of hand luggage. We just made our connecting flight to Bangalore. We arrived in Bangalore safely at the crack of dawn. Our luggage did not. It was quite a voyage. Without luggage, we had much space in our car. There were no car seats. Ambrose jumped around the seats up and down as we drove to Mysore. Julian clapped his hands every so often as he watched the driver's head bob a bit as if he was falling to sleep. My fear button had definitely already been pressed, and we had just landed in India. Thus began the journey to Mysore with kids. I remember wondering if I was crazy to take my kids to India. So far, it felt like I was.
Ever so kindly, Jeff and Harmony Lichty lent us extra yoga mats. There I was, day one of practice, dressed in Julian's boxer shorts and a long T-shirt. Julian practiced next to me in a button-down shirt and khaki pants. Luggage still missing, hip still throbbing, but we were in the Shala with Guruji and Sharath. Luckily I could practice without my hip pain being obvious, but my hip felt stuck and I could not lift my leg without the help of my hands. When I arrived at uttitha hasta padangusthasana, there was Guruji at my mat ready to help. He caught my extended heel and took me through the pose, shaking my heel every once in a while. It had been years since I received an adjustment in that posture, and on that day my external "form" looked fine. My leg was lifted high. However, internally, the prana felt stuck. On that day, Guruji chose me out of all other sixty practitioners, many of whom were much newer to Yoga and modified, barely able to lift a tight leg or perform that very asana. The next day, my pain was completely gone. On day three, our luggage arrived.
My perspective on that trip in 2006 felt completely different from the last visit to India over four years earlier. My life had dramatically changed. Two pregnancies, two births and the greatest gifts, Ambrose and Viveka, my two children, had arrived. I was so grateful to introduce Guruji and Sharath to both of them.
When I think back on the births of my children, I was visited by this same tendency of fear. Many have asked me if giving birth was painful. As I reflect back deep into myself, I realize that the "pain" of birthing, for me, was mental pain, the fear of the "what if this happens," or "what if that happens." Once again, "Why Fearing?" Some patterns run deep— "Long coming, long staying."
Practicing as a mom, I feel that Yoga has taken on a whole new meaning and indeed become a practice of how to live my life. There were times when I began my practice at 5 AM and stopped when Ambrose woke, five minutes, twenty minutes, or forty minutes later. Ambrose was an active child who rarely slept. I sometimes had to wait for a few hours later until Julian took Ambrose from me so I could resume and finish the rest. But I still showed up. I still took practice. The form just looked different. My body and mind were different. Life had changed greatly, but the Shala was as I remembered, and there I was, back in the presence of my great teachers, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his grandson Sharath Rangaswamy, taking practice.
At the end of week one, I found myself in the "led" Intermediate Series class counted by Guruji. "Kapotasana, supta come through," belted Guruji. I prepared for this backbend, a backbend Guruji had taught me probably seven years back. My back body had certain curves and bends that made this posture somewhat comfortable for me. And in the past, I could greet this posture with some equanimity. As I moved into the posture, Guruji began his count, "one... two..." And then he stopped, right at my mat. This was a big surprise because I had never received an adjustment in this posture from Guruji nor Sharath.
"Touch your head," he commanded me.
"How to touch my head to the floor?" I thought as I was breathing (my head was far from floor and feet).
Guruji's count slowed. My hands were clasping my heels, the full expression to the physical posture, but Guruji wanted something else. He could see from the flow of energy in my body that the veritable final form was not happening. Indeed, he was right. I felt the same, even though I was clasping my heels. After two children, I had an umbilical hernia, very tight hip flexors and 3" separation in my abdominals. My youngest child, Viveka, was ten months at the time. My eldest, Ambrose, was two. I was an exhausted mom who found herself in India for six weeks, five of which were spent without Julian. Needless to say, I had made it to India, but it took every bit of my strength to get there and to sustain the journey. My body was weak, my core was split (literally), and I was slowly working to bring things back together. I sense that Guruji saw this.
Kapotasana—I had never heard the "head to the floor" command. "Where is he taking me?" I thought to myself. I tried. My head did not seem to want to touch. Guruji tried, and pushed my rib cage downward. Still, my head did not want to touch the floor. He grunted and, luckily for everyone in the led class, announced "five," the final count of the posture. It had been a long five breaths, I will tell you that. Guruji planted the seed, "head to the floor." "Tomorrow, I will try again," I thought. And I did. Still no head to floor. But I kept trying.
Twenty months passed and there I was in Vancouver, on my mat with Guruji's photo hanging right in front of me on the altar. It was on that day when Guruji's words returned to me in kapotasana. "Touch your head," I heard his words echo as I arrived in the pose. Of course Guruji was back in Mysore, India, but he was with me in spirit on that day. And I touched my head, this time, much more gracefully to the floor. Time had passed, my kids were older, I had more sleep at night, my body had reopened and re-strengthened after the changes of pregnancy and childbirth. I had learned how to knit my abdominal wall back together. As my head touched the floor, I could feel the energetic connection. There was a "zap" as my inner body lined up with my outer body. And then the seal of energy closed. This was yet another "ah-ha" Guruji moment
as I realized that this was just one other gifts that Guruji had given me twenty months prior. The seed was finally being sown and continues to be sown to this day.