I had other ideas for the blog this week until something happened that brought me up short, with gratitude.
I started my little studio months before Covid began. It was a real challenge, learning so many things that were far out of my comfort zone: creating a website (however rudimentary), scheduling social media, finding my students all the while working my full-time job! With the help of my sons on the technical things (how do I record a video and upload???) and lots of online reconnaissance, I muddled through. Classes were small, sometimes there was no one. Sometimes that is still the case, but I am more realistic about it now. Most of all, I wondered was I reaching anyone?
One of my first students was a recent college graduate. She consistently turned up to my Tuesday evening class on Zoom. She had attended in person but zoom, along with the pandemic, became our reality. Some days I would text her when I noticed she had signed up but hadn’t logged in. In the early months, she was challenged by planks and core work; I made my first ever yoga video for her (now on the YouTube channel). When we got back in person, sometimes we practiced just the two of us. No matter what, if she signed up, I held class, feeling a special bond, appreciating her dedication and believing that consistency is important. Over the past 2 ½ years we have practiced together, discussed recipes, her upcoming wedding, her one-year wedding anniversary, and her potential move. I remember some of us sitting on the floor of the studio after evening class to view her wedding photos (more than once). This week she moved out of state for wonderful job opportunities for both she and her husband.
At our last (in person) class, she left me a note, a letter. Her words filled me with such joy. In the letter, she talked about starting to practice with me, and how she appreciated feeling “pushed not not shamed” as she tried new poses and how my “simple text” when she hadn’t signed in was a sign that I cared and “motivated her without fail” to get out of the Covid funk and log in to class. The letter was long and special, I won’t share more, I want to hold it privately close to my heart.
While her purpose in writing was to me was to express gratitude to me, all I could feel in return was gratitude to her. For making me feel that my teaching was reaching people, that my approach was positive, and that my style resonated with her. The letter was so moving, it brought me to tears, tears of thankfulness and joy.
So, this week, we focus on gratitude. Gratitude for people who come into our lives and how they gently, subtly have an impact. I don’t mean our family and best friends; we are likely already grateful for them. These are the people we interact with perhaps professionally, at our hobbies, in the library. If we do not stay open and aware, I think we miss knowing how we impact others, and they impact us. They don’t all write us letters!
I am so grateful for this opportunity to recognize this gratitude, for my students, my practice, and my yoga community, and this week, to my special student who has embarked on a new phase.
Godspeed my yogi friend.
Our Practice – Gratitude - Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Poses that open our heart help balance the heart chakra, and release tension. This week we will focus on anjaneyasana (low lunge) with gentle back bend, arms in cactus and other variations. This pose inspires gratitude as we remain grounded reaching up and revealing our heart.
The pose honors the monkey god Hanuman using his mother’s name, Anjani. Lord Hanuman is a central part of Hindu devotional worship, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The pose resembles a young, divine child (anjaneya), reaching towards the sky and the warmth of the sun.
The physical benefits of low lunge can strengthen the hips and quadriceps, stretches the psoas, quadriceps, and groin. This is especially good to do after running which contracts our leg muscles. The lifted arms open our chest (and heart) and helps improve posture.
Starting in downward dog, inhale. As you exhale, step your right foot forward, between your hands. Lower your left knee to the floor, sliding the foot back until you feel a nice stretch in the left hip and thigh. Keep the hips low and level with each other.
As you inhale, engage your lower belly, and lift your chest away from the thigh, sweeping the arms up alongside your ears.
Come into a gentle backbend lifting your chest toward the sky, arms over head or in cactus.
To protect your low back direct your tail bone down toward the mat with the backbend coming more in your upper spine.
As you exhale, lower your hands back down and step back to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Meditation on Gratitude
“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” — John Milton, English philosopher
A Meditation on Gratitude and Joy by Jack Kornfield
With gratitude I remember the people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth, all whose joyful exertion blesses my life every day.
With gratitude I remember the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me.
I offer my gratitude for the safety and well-being I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the blessing of this earth I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the family and friends I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the community I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given.
I offer my gratitude for the life I have been given.
Just as we are grateful for our blessings, so we can be grateful for the blessings of others.
Nurturing with Food – Zucchini Bites
As August advances (sigh), we still are discovering the big zucchini in the garden, sometimes hidden so they become very large. What to do with them. I am repeating this recipe that while I had my doubts on who would it eat when I first made them, appealed not only to my adult vegetarian friends but surprisingly to my oldest son and his friends. Great way to use zucchini, they freeze well and are a great app for a large crowd. Serve with homemade tomato sauce if you have it (recipe for another day)! Good, jarred sauce works fine 😊
See you on the mat!