Two weeks ago, I went to my first restorative yoga class…
If you are not familiar with restorative yoga, it is a form of yoga that seeks to achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation with the aid of props. Minutes into the class I was overcome with calmness and overwhelming peace. No expectations, no agenda, just me and my mat. Suddenly it was as if everyone in the room seemed to have vanished. My focus was only on my breathing. In the stillness of my mind, I suddenly received answers to my worries. Questions that had previously consumed me were replaced by soft fragrant smells of lavender and sounds of meditation music playing in the background, with beautifully scattered candles around the room. All these combined Zen elements transported me to a very tranquil place.
Judging a book by its cover
Fast forward to a week later and to my second restorative class. Waiting for the doors to open for my 7:30 pm yoga class, I noticed a girl in her 20s getting out of her car, carefully taking each and every step as she braced herself against her walker. I blessed her with a silent prayer as I watched her enter the studio. The class began in a unique way this night and our instructor asked us if we had something to share: a joy or a triumph?
No one answered, so she said, “Let me share my joy with you.” There before me was the girl with the walker [my instructor]. She told us how she had initially hated her walker but after some time she grew to embrace it and even named it ‘Alice Walker’. Then she shared with us how she had been dreading the arrival of her new wheelchair, which was delivered this past weekend. She said she was reluctant and even became angry at the thought of using it.
Her attitude and her acceptance of where she is now regarding her health turned around 360 degrees and she loved the sudden independence of this chair. She smiled as she told us how she shopped happily and with ease, as she went from department to department. She recounted how, prior to using her chair, something as simple as shopping was almost impossible and how she had to focus on her steps and her strength to grasp her walker. I felt humbled as I listened to her story, all the while bearing witness to her strength and her gracious spirit.
Class had now started and before going into Zen mode, I quietly looked around me. To my left was an elderly woman in her late 60s and to my right an extremely overweight lady, both seated on their mats. Then I remembered how earlier today my friend with scoliosis [a rod supporting her spine] had declined my invitation to come to this class. She had expressed to me her fear of being judged at not being able to do certain yoga poses due to her body’s limitations. Within seconds a small tear rolled from my eye down onto my cheek.
Creating a ‘no-judgement’ space
Quietly in my mind I said to myself, “This studio, this practice of yoga [mind, body and spirit] has the ability to transform one’s self, to heal both emotionally and physically and is something that anyone can come to and participate in”. Your size, shape, age, ethnicity, or your physical limitations don’t matter. Yoga is just like the almighty; both are here for everyone without judgement.
I invite you to enter this place of true acceptance where you connect with your mind and body, restoring your inner peace and strength. To experience the flood of love and light that will fill your emotions and your thoughts with peace, joy and the true appreciation that YOU are valued and are a wonderfully created human being.
This was first published in the September 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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