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Transforming the world can take place on a small scale, as small as nourishing and giving within a loving committed relationship, within a friendship. I've experienced this sort of transforming love with the Boatman, and it's something I've never had before. And of course we cannot forget the Big Black Dog. I don`t discount the great importance of these relationships but lately it seems that in other areas, I am paralyzed, alone on my yoga mat, waiting for my acetabulum to become more fabulous. I have been waiting for a long time.
I have written about how yoga transformed me and my life, how it taught me not to llie. I wasn’t lying when I wrote these things, but I’m not convinced that “Yoga made me a better person.” Before I committed to a daily practice, I made concrete and honest contributions to the world. When I was a teenager, I helped my parents take care of Glendon, a little boy with cerebral palsy. I spent summers working at camps for children with special needs. Two years into university, I left school to live and work at a home for adults with intellectual disabilities. I stayed there for two years. Many of the people around me didn’t own yoga mats-they still don’t-and perhaps they wouldn’t necessarily become better people if they did.
While I was caring for others, feeding them, changing their diapers, the taste of vomit stopped me from fully experiencing where I was. I wasn’t fully there for them.
Of course, we can’t all be “fully healed” and “fully in the present moment,” before we’re ready to serve. Otherwise no one would ever do anything for anyone. But how much self-care is reasonable? How much is necessary?
When I left the house for people with disabilities, I felt both extremely guilty that I would no longer be serving in the same capacity as I was before, but also convinced that I never wanted to do anything so all-consuming ever again.
Five years later, those years at that house are probably the most tangible “contribution” that I’ve ever made. In the meantime, I’ve maintained a daily Ashtanga yoga practice. I can count the number of unsanctioned days off I’ve taken (besides Saturdays, moondays and ladies’ holidays) on less than one hand. In misguided attempts to further cleanse and purify my body, and a failure to curb my tendencies towards overexercise, remnants of my eating disorder returned within eight months of daily practice. My symptoms lingered for a few years, and then went away. Ultimately, my yoga (asana) practice has shown its potential for healing, self-absorption, and shall I admit it, some physical violence. Although sometimes I would like it to be, practice isn’t an insurance policy that gives you a pass for the rest of the day.
That said, this is not a “breaking up with Ashtanga” letter, and I do feel that my practice has benefited me immensely and it remains a necessary part of my routine of self-care. I will keep practicing wholeheartedly, but perhaps I can let go of some of the neurosis that’s wrapped around completing the same postures in exactly the same way every day. And I need to remind myself that even though there are things I learned on the mat that I couldn’t realize while I was frantically changing diapers at the house for people with disabilities, other very important things occurred while I was changing those diapers. Despite my then mediocre acetabular rotation.
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I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt
A Broken Body is Not a Broken Spirit
My Life's Purpose
The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice