Teaching Yoga After the Orlando Shooting

A letter to my students...     

"...exhale, Savasana.

       Relax your toes and your hips and your fingertips. Loosen your knees and ease your lower back. Calm your shoulders and slow your breath. Soften the skin on your face and lighten the thoughts in your head. Relax your whole body... Quiet your whole mind... Open your whole heart... Rest, here. Rest..."

Sweet Yogi,

While you lay in your Savasana, there are some things I'd like you to know...

When I became a Yoga teacher, I knew I'd have to adhere to particular boundaries; don't cuss, don't talk about God or the bible or conspiracy theories --basically, separate Church & Child's Pose. Don't talk about money or politics or sex or drugs or rock & roll- actually, rock & roll is okay in small doses (and, well, sometimes so are drugs. Never mind.) Easy enough. 

But then, you know, a mass shooting happens and innocent people die while celebrating their life. And things don't make any sense or resemble anything close to the Yoga I've come to know, value and understand. This week, in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, I was met with a hard question; What is my role, here, when bad things happen? Do I talk about the thing? Do I mention it? Theme my class around it? Certainly, and thankfully, I'm no cocky-cooky-ultra-almighty-patronizing-invincible-omniponent-supreme-spiritual Guru, but do I have a right and enough street cred to address the thing and, maybe, MAYBE, help ease your feelings about it for an hour?

Yes. I do. And I'll do it now...

       My trembling finger hovers over the 'play' button on my iPod. I press down. "Same Love", the instrumental version. The music draws over you like a weighted blanket and I can already sense the tension in your throat. I don't know if I want to massage you or lay down with you and fall to pieces in the presence of your yogic bliss. I imagine that would be quite creepy.

I'm about to take my usual stance at the top of your head and massage your temples and third eye and whatnot. But something, no, God, God tells me I need to look at you square while I touch you. My feet redirect and quietly straddle your torso, as I rub my Lavender-soaked hands together to let you know I'm here. I dance my hands over your nose. "Inhale", I say. You inhale, taking in the smell. "Exhale". I press down on your shoulders as you do and I, I see you in a way I haven't before. You're so beautiful. You're...love.. Words, thoughts, feelings suddenly race from my head, flood my arms and are now seeping through my fingertips, into your pores...

My fingers through your wild, sweaty hair; You are not alone.

Your face in my hands, You are safe, here.

My thumbs on your temples, I hear you.

My hands cradling your face, I see you.

My left hand over your heart, I take a stand for you.

My right hand rests atop my left, I love you.

I'm clear, now, sweet Yogi. I know my role, here; My role is to love you, to be equal to you, to see you, hear you. My role is to hold both of us to a standard of grace. My role is to walk you home when the world outside your mat is dark. My role is not to be the light, but help you find and illuminate your own. I can do these things with my voice, my hands, my body language.

No, I don't have to talk about the thing. I don't need to mention the horrific shooting during our practice. No elaborate theme needed, here. No performance. No GuruSpeak. Just simple, subtle reminders, details here and there, that your Yoga mat is a safe place to land. That there is a lot of good in the world. That YOU are the good in the world. That I am your safe place. That you are mine.


Artist: Colette Miller

Artist: Colette Miller