• Anjali Rao

…and thus I find myself.

A twenty something young man comes up to me and says, I needed this. I needed to sweat today. It was good. And the breathing was good. Simple words. Powerful words. I needed to hear those words. It moved me to hear those words. For those words were spoken by a young man who has cancer, for those words were hard for him to say to me. I sensed he doesn’t talk much. I had never seen him before and haven’t seen him since, he didn’t give me any eye contact or any non verbal indication of any of his thoughts and feelings. Just those words.

Two poised women, sitting in beautiful, white chairs, lean back and talk about their weekend. They both dislike Bay Area traffic, like strong coffee and love Yoga. One of them is from Switzerland, I learn and the other is a native Californian. They are both concerned about a fellow Yoga classmate who had a fall and broke her hip,they both are trying to figure out a way to meet their friend and get her to class so she can meet the rest of the class. They all have seen Life and understand how it is to need to get out and move and breathe.

Three strong Afghan women giggle as they tell one another how to do the crescent pose and twist and turn their bodies. They look at me shyly as I talk to them in English and my broken Hindi, trying to get as close to a language they know, demonstrating the pose so they can follow. They are in that moment not survivors of domestic violence, or immigrants figuring out an alien system, in that moment they are three students trying to figure out what the yoga teacher is asking them to do. In that moment they are dealing with their discomfort, dealing with their breath, smoothening their spines as they reach out towards the rather low ceiling.

I have never identified myself strongly with any other group other than the ones I have mentioned above. A community, bound by trauma, physical or emotional, a reluctant community as Lorien, my mentor calls us. I am a woman, a mom, an American now, have deep Indian roots, but the feeling of belonging to a community is a powerful one, a motivating one, a life asserting one.

And I am grateful to be a part of creating and forging this community. A community of peaceful warriors, of Yogis with an intent to heal, heal our bodies, mind and spirit. Yoga as a tool to shape more than our thighs, strengthen more than our cores, free more than our breath, stretch more than our muscles. Yoga as a tool, to shape the community, strengthen bonds and human experience, free our spirits and our hearts and stretch our potential as human beings. This is what is exciting and inspiring and a calling that I need to heed.

Can this be done? Yes!! I have seen this in action, in the past few months, as an apprentice in the Yoga for Cancer survivor classes and the Wellness program at a Domestic Violence support non profit organization. I have also seen this in action in a yoga class with students are regulars. What is it about Yoga that binds one to another? Is it just endorphins, feeling good in that collective effort of making our bodies and breaths stretch? Is it rather more esoteric and amorphous, a freeing of spirit and a collective release of human experience into the Divine as we ring out Aum together? I don’t know. I dare not hazard a guess, for it would be presumptuous to know as I am but a beginner in this path. For now, I observe, absorb, learn, and teach. Grateful to be a part of the tribe.

#cancer #community #trauma #Yoga

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