Tidal Basin

Germination Detail Part III, by Leslie Shellow

contemplations about what stays in the net

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yoga Without Mats

I spent my weekend preparing for classes, the converse of how I spend my weeks: teaching classes. Otherwise, I was traipsing around in the relative green spaces of D.C. with my dog for his search-and-rescue training; the real point of which is, perhaps, to one day rescue me. I digress. I did not want to write about search-and-rescue. I did not want to write about my classes. In fact, I saw the paper this morning, and right there, in the op-ed section, I saw what I was really avoiding writing about. It’s too big and
I don’t feel ready.

One of my teachers and inspirations, Bhanu Kapil, writes in her blog: “In India, there are no yoga mats.  Just bed-sheets, that you spread on the Persian carpet once you've pushed the glass-topped coffee table out of the way.” (Sept. 18, 2010)

I go to her blog to continue the conversation. I go to her blog to start a new conversation. Thank you, Bhanu, for edging me into story. I needed a place to start. Bhanu, if you were here, this is what I would say: 

Yoga Without Mats. Is that like Doctors Without Borders?

I think it can be.

I begin. The story about Cuba is too large and unwieldy. How do I make it bite-sized?
I will start with Bhanu’s yoga sheets.

News traveled fast. My friend in Havana who taught yoga out of his home called his friends in Santiago the moment I was on my way: “She’s coming. She does yoga. She’ll teach you.” I had never taught before. That was the least of our worries.

Our worries:

        - gathering without permission,
         - not having a teaching license,
          - starting a revolution (the bad kind), resulting in fines; more likely, imprisonment, or even extradition, resulting in                         discovery of my presence, illegally, in [unsaid] punished nation. I write this now only because our new president might not read this blog. If he did, he might smile and turn the other cheek.  

I digress.

To get to the hospital, I walked down a hill to the low part of town. Where the town became the round bottom of a bowl, there was a small hill up one side and that was where the hospital was, so I walked up that hill to the square and basic building that held the auditorium. I don’t know if I arrived alone. I will say yes because I can’t remember.

Eloy’s ladies were lovely. I met them at a Green Medicine Conference he told me to attend at the local hospital. The ladies recognized me and had me sitting in the front row. They were in their sixties, I think. They sat on either side of me, each holding one of my hands. We listened to a lecture on crystals. There was a break between lectures. I stretched and smiled. They smiled. They told me the next presenter hadn’t shown up and would I give a lecture on yoga for the group? They were all so very interested. You’ll do a demonstration, they said.

A demonstration?

I had five minutes to scribble in Spanish on a napkin everything I knew about yoga .

There were a hundred doctors and nurses who believed in Green Medicine returning to their seats. There were a hundred doctors and nurses who probably did not speak English. I figured the Universe would take care of this one for me.

I got up, thanked them all for coming, I meant staying, whilst I, who they were not expecting, told them something about the yoga I practiced. I can’t remember what I said -  I was censoring myself already; I had met a man who had been jailed for practicing yoga because it seemed like a religion. But that was a long time ago…

The inspiring ladies and I agreed we would meet once a week to practice yoga. I would teach the poses. The ladies would teach me the names of the body parts in Spanish. They were five, enthusiastic women in their sixties starting a yoga revolution. On the street, they whispered the meeting spot in my ear, they hushed me into doorways, they led me up stairs.They threw down their sheets, some had towels, on kitchen floors. And we formed many shapes with our bodies.

Oh, this feels nice, Sarita, they said, stretching and moaning. We need this.

To the ladies in Santiago: I promised you I would become a yoga teacher when I returned to the States, so I could come back and teach you more. I have studied and studied, and I want to keep my promise.

You must be seventy. Or maybe older. Do you stretch inside the spaces in your days? Are you breathing?

Put the sheets back on the bed. I’ll bring mats. 
 But, something tells me, we won't need them.

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