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On the road full of promise (and light) April 25, 2015

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 31-Day Challenge, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Faith, Fitness, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Karma Yoga, Loss, Love, Men, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Music, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Science, Suffering, Super Heroes, Surya Namaskar, Texas, Twin Cities, Uncategorized, Women, Writing, Yoga.
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“Thanks to everyone who came out to support Mind Body Solutions on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  The essence of Matthew Sanford’s teaching is transformation. It was deeply inspiring to see everyone open their minds and bodies to this exploration.” – Kari Anderson’s message to the yogis who donated $315 at our April 18th donation-based event.

Don’t despair if you missed our donation-based class last Saturday, because Kari and I are hosting another one on Saturday, May 2nd, 3:30 PM at Flourish!

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

As we approach the end of the 2015 KISS MY ASANA yogathon, I find myself overwhelmed on so many occasions that I sometimes feel like I have lost my “big girl words.” Time and time again, I have been blown away by the generosity and kindness of people on the mat. I set my 2015 donation goal thinking I could raise a few more dollars than last year – and already some joyful yogis from at least two (2) states have more than doubled my initial goal! (Thank you all for that!)

Time and time again, I have been moved by an encounter with a Mind Body Solutions teacher, student, or volunteer. And, every time – every single time – I take a class from Matthew Sanford, I am blown away and my mind is completely boggled. In fact, I shudder to think how many times I said, “I was blown away…” or described something as “mind boggling” during last Saturday’s donation-based class. Maybe it’s cute at first, especially if you’re expecting further explanation down the road; however, some things can only be experienced to be fully understood. So, I invite people to catch a Monday class with Matt and, every once in awhile, I mention Mind Body Solutions in class and try to channel a little Matt the way I sometimes channel a little Yoda. During last Saturday’s donation-based class, I felt my words were so inadequate I relied on words written by Bruce Kramer and Cathy Wurzer in We Know How This Ends.

For those of you unfamiliar with his story, Bruce Kramer was a former dean at the University of St Thomas Twin Cities who chronicled his life with ALS on Cathy Wurzer’s Minnesota Public Radio show. We Know How This Ends describes their parallel journeys through this process of living and dying, while sharing the process of living and dying. The book is raw, and rich, and so real I had to set it aside for a moment after I first received it from a mutual friend and student of Bruce and mine. But, before Saturday’s KISS MY ASANA class, I read the chapter where Bruce and Cathy talk about “Dis Ease Yoga.” And I was so moved (read, “blown away”), I decided to share Cathy Wurzer’s words as part of our introduction and Bruce’s words as our conclusion.

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light / And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

In We Know How This Ends, Bruce Kramer describes aspects of yoga that are very familiar to me – even though I’ve never been in a wheelchair or felt the extreme decline of my body. He describes benefits from and challenges in his yoga practice that may be familiar to anyone who spends a little time on a mat. And, like me, he was a big music fan. (Thank him for the Avett Brothers song referenced here! And like it on YouTube!) He and Cathy Wurzer also talk about a point before ALS, before “Dis Ease Yoga,” when they didn’t really get the significance of the practice.

“If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected / Decide what to be and go be it” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

I was fortunate in that my introduction to yoga included an introduction to yoga as a philosophy and to the idea that yoga can be practiced by anyone – you just have to find your practice. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I discovered people who would stop practicing yoga, because of an injury or an unfortunate circumstance. And, it never fails to break my heart when someone gives up what can be a healing practice, because their body (and/or their doctor) says, “No more push-ups.” That’s when a yoga teacher can step in and say, “OK, you’re not doing that anymore, but you can do this!” Only, I remember hearing former paratrooper Arthur Boorman’s healing story and thinking, “How is it possible that Diamond Dallas was the only yoga teacher willing to help this guy?!?” Well, bottom line, too many Western yoga teachers are ill-equipped to teach the physical practice (let alone the meta-physical practice) to someone who isn’t already considered physically and/or mentally “able.” Thankfully, Matthew Sanford and the other teachers at Mind Body Solutions are changing that!

“There was a dream and one day I could see it / Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it / And there was a kid with a head full of doubt / So I’ll scream till I die and the last of those bad thoughts are finally out” – Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise by Avett Brothers

Mind Body Solutions is on “a mission to transform trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body.” It sounds all lofty and wonderful, right? But, it’s also very real and very raw. It’s a mission that, as the Avett Brothers sing, gets “the last of those bad thoughts” out so we can realize that as long as we’re breathing there is a mind-body-spirit connection. And it’s there, even when machines are helping us breathe.

Despite occasionally practicing with Matt; implementing some of what he teaches in my own practice and teaching; and having a few personal connections to people being served by the mission, I am slightly removed from the very real and very raw experiences found in adaptive yoga. If you’re not living the mission or deeply connected to someone being served by the mission, I think it is easy to fall into a space where this whole adaptive yoga thing just sounds like a good idea – you know, a worthy cause – but somehow separate from what the rest of us are doing. As I mentioned earlier, reading the “Dis Ease Yoga” chapter in We Know How This Ends helped remind me that we are all in bodies together and so, therefore, we are all in this yoga thing together. It’s not the style or the tradition that makes something yoga, it’s the coming together.

 “ I feel part of the universe open up to meet me / My emotion so submerged, broken down to kneel in/ Once listening, the voices they came / Had to somehow greet myself, read myself /Heard vibrations within my cells, in my cells “ – Better Days by Eddie Vedder

There are plenty of times when I feel part of the universe – and I feel connected to every other part of the universe. There are times I relish that feeling. Superficial as it may seem, I sometimes relish that feeling when it comes from seeing someone with a yoga mat and thinking, “Hey, that person’s a yogi, like me!” Even without knowing anything about them, or their practice – even knowing sometimes the person could be going to Pilates or something else altogether – I still have that moment of affinity; that moment when I feel connected and want to go deeper, find out more about them. But, it’s very rare that I have that feeling about someone in a wheelchair, or someone on a ventilator, or someone missing a limb. Cognitive, I know we are connected – but I very rarely have that visceral, bone-deep, cellular feeling like I do with someone with whom I have a shared experience.

Last Sunday I had a one of those rare bone-deep, visceral yoga/union moments.

I wore my Yoga and Body Image Coalition “This is what a yogi looks like” t-shirt while teaching, but (y’all know how I layer) between classes I wore my long sleeved 2015 KISS MY ASANA shirt. Somehow, despite my hoodie and my winter coat, a woman in a wheelchair spotted my yogathon t-shirt. We were going in opposite directions, but as we passed one another she shouted, “I practice there too!” I said, “It’s awesome.” She sighed, “I know,” with a big smile on her face.

About twenty minutes later, Carrie and I ended up in the same coffee shop – and we got to talk about yoga. She encouraged me to try a practice at Courage Center and told me about her teachers, only two (2) of whom were familiar to me. For a moment I thought about how by supporting the yogathon, teachers and students like me create opportunities for more teachers and students like Carrie, and her teachers.

But, ultimately, when I remember my discussion with Carrie, I will remember her saying she loved how friendly everyone is when she practices. I will remember that big Cheshire grin on her face when she said her favorite part of class was the relaxation part – and how her grin looked exactly like the big Cheshire grin my regulars get when they ask if we can do a 60-minute Savasana. I will also remember how that feeling I had when she first noticed my shirt, was the same feeling I have when I notice someone carrying a yoga mat: I will remember that moment when we were one and the same.


### NAMASTE ###


1. Eileen O'Toole - April 27, 2015

Connection, community, we are all one. Beautiful, Myra.

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