Everything I know about “The Godfather” I got from the Tom Hanks character in “You’ve Got Mail” – this pandemic taught me to go to the mattresses. This is war. How am I going to make it through this?
I educated myself on how to reduce the chances of contracting the virus. I live with someone who works on Broadway and several members of their company contracted Covid-19 and sadly, one of them lost the battle. I have to fight. If someone has had close contact with a person who died from this Coronavirus, it is smart to assume that person is an asymptomatic carrier. Think of how many common surfaces there are in a household – light switches, doorknobs, drawer handles, refrigerator door handles, kitchen utensils, faucets, toilet seats, etc. I cannot control how much someone else disinfects and practices good hand hygiene but I can make sure I am fighting every moment.
Mental Health & Acceptance
I knew I had to dedicate a lot of time to mindfulness practices so that I can accept my circumstances and become okay with not knowing the future. One battle I was not willing to engage with was reality. Pick your battles? Yes. I knew if I tried to fight reality, I would lose. Acceptance became key. Where do I learn and practice acceptance? On my yoga mat. Yoga has physical benefits, yes. But rarely do I practice for physical health – yoga is the key to my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
I used to get my physical health through cycling, boxing, and walking. Walking was out of the question – I live in NYC – so it was time to get endorphins in my apartment. I ordered a stationary bike for less than $200 from Amazon (Marcy Foldable Upright Exercise Bike with Adjustable Resistance) and started doing Peloton cycle classes through their app.
I needed to simplify my life in order to cultivate mindfulness. I worked on puzzles. The activity became a moving meditation. I listened to audiobooks and lectures (“Walden”, “Learning to Walk in the Dark”, “The Golden Compass”, “The Subtle Knife”, “Learning the Human Game”, “Still the Mind”). I took baths. I lit candles. I rose before the sun and went to bed at dusk. I made my life very small. I managed to find contentment.
I was aching to connect but didn’t know how. Then, a former student (who was my balance beam coach when I was a competitive gymnast) reached out from 1,500 miles away and asked me if there was any way I could give her a yoga class. I taught a class and filmed it. Then it came time to edit and I knew this would be an obstacle because of how long it would take me, so I decided to send the uncut video to the her. Then another student reached out. Then another. Then another. We were all longing for connection and yoga was the profound vehicle that brought all of us together.
I decided to start offering live classes and let the word out. I figured out the platform I wanted to use, worked through a long list of production issues, and committed to offer class only when I have something to say and have the energy to give.
I learned early in my teaching career that it was important to remember I am a mirror for my students. Yes, I do a LOT of hard work to bring them a high-quality yoga experience but it’s really the yoga itself that works. Teaching over 4,000 classes gives you a certain perspective and you know it isn’t about you. I don’t have special powers; I just spend a lot of time working on my craft. The students are the ones doing the work on their mats – I hold the space. Whether a student has a good class or a bad class isn’t up to me, so I don’t take credit for either.
After yesterday’s class, I received an email from one of my students that I’d like to share with you.
The beauty she described made me cry and it’s making me tear up now thinking about it. She carved out time during a pandemic to take care of herself. She practiced in the sun and heard her son’s giggles during her practice. She experienced joy. She was able to go deep. That is extraordinary.
This is why I teach – to create something that has the potential to help people in so many different ways. Yoga works. But it only works if we (teacher and student) both do the work. I go deep in my personal practice and learn so much about who I am, what I can let go of, and who I want to become. I am grateful to my teachers who held (and hold) the space for me to grow.
In February, I emerged from a dark night of the soul that lasted years. I felt lost. I started to reclaim my essence and looked to find my voice again. In March, I simplified my life and started deeply listening again. In April, I taught my first live class and now here we are, at war with an invisible enemy. I hope that what I’m doing in this will help you in your battle – whatever it is that you are fighting.
I am so grateful to all my students who show up to my live classes. I’m so grateful they asked me to teach again. Teaching, connecting, and sharing has given me a sense of purpose and I almost forgot what it feels like. I humbly bow to all of you.