Tuesday, April 2, 2013
"Now try something crazy."
Last week in my yoga class my teacher Victoria had us imagine a hoola hoop in front of each of us. We were to pick it up and twirl it around our waists, then twirl another around our necks and another around each arm. As we contorted and giggled, she also suggested that we twirl an imaginary hoola hoop around one foot, but I didn’t do that because the floor was not imaginary and neither was my body, and I didn’t want to fall.
As the twelve of us in the room “twirled” spastically, she laughed and said, “Now try something crazy.” I’m not sure what she had in mind. I was thinking, “I thought this was crazy.”
So many things seem crazy to me now as I navigate this city with my disabilities. Just that morning, for example, I had walked to the bus in gusts of wind so powerful that at times I had to stop and hold on to a tree just so that I wouldn’t fall.
I imagined what Snoopy would have typed about this day: “It was a dark and stormy day.”
Over the past three months, I attended a series of lectures on Yoga Philosophy and History by my first yoga teacher, Denise Benitez at Yoga Arts. The yoga philosophers we studied were perhaps crazy in a nerdy way. At least, I guess, my studying them was nerdy.
Which is okay with me. I embrace my nerdiness, and I seek companionship among others who are so inclined. (Cheryl, a friend in my ependymoma support group, recently crowned me “the epe yoga gal.” I love it!)
Denise opened the class with a welcome: “Hello, yoga nerds!”We all smiled and giggled a little in self-recognition. We sat in the middle of the floor, shoes off, in this yoga studio on a Friday night while the cooler set had cocktails at the bar next door. These nerds were my peeps.
As Denise talked about the Tantric Yoga tradition, I took notes on my laptop (of course).As I took in the room’s textures and fullness, I remembered the first yoga studio where I learned from Denise twenty years ago.
In those early days, Ann and I parked in a lopsided parking lot whose asphalt was splitting. A rusting tall chain link fence surrounded the small lot.
We took the rickety stairs to the third floor where we waited in a cold hallway on a gymnastics mat rolled on its side and took off our shoes, leaving them in the hallway while we were in class.
We each took a spot in a long alleyway of a classroom and tried poses named for contorted animals: downward facing dog and dolphin pose, for example.
My body, athletic but unaccustomed to this kind of stretching and breathing, slumped into poses, though I found an early home in triangle pose (named for the shape, I suppose, not the instrument).
At the end of these long ago classes, we covered ourselves with blankets and practiced being dead as we relaxed into shivasana, or corpse pose. As we died to the world, the drumming class next door always crescendoed.
After class, Ann and I were always glad to see that our car was still in its rusted fence.Denise is an outstanding teacher and has moved yoga-style upscale through the years.
When I was still taking classes with her, she moved to a airier, quieter studio in an area where rusted fences were not to be found. Giant metallic stars, lit from the inside, hung from the ceiling above the small cramped area where we took off our shoes.
Around the time of my tumors, she moved again. This was my first visit to her new studio.
As I sat sockfooted on the floor, awaiting the lecture in her studio, I looked around and marveled at the paper lights. Outside the studio were shoe cubbies and a waiting area with rugs and comfy benches and—lo and behold!—a receptionist.
I marveled at the change in Denise’s yoga home, though her light giggle and poetic spirit seemed at their essence the same.
As I remember, Denise was a fashion designer in New York City before she came to Seattle to teach yoga, so each new studio's richer décor fits her spirit.
I always marvel at the great luck that I had found such a crazy passion so early in my life, a passion that prepared me for the craziness and the joys of brain tumors and their effects.
Dare I wonder what the next crazy thing will be?