Over the past twenty years, whenever someone asks me why I practice or teach Yoga, it is hard for me to come up with an easy answer. It is so hard to express in words what the body and the heart are able to feel and absorb.
I tell people that yoga has saved my life over and over again. This month leading up to Thanksgiving, when many of us reflect on what we are grateful for, for me, Yoga is what comes to mind.
It is not just the physical benefits that I have received, injuries that I have healed through yoga, the feeling of strength and balance in my body, and the ways in which the practice has supported all of my other athletic endeavors, but much much more…
In the summer of 1999, I was on a vacation in the south of France, exploring the country, eating amazing food, drinking delicious wine, and enjoying life. That September I was getting married, and, although I didn’t know it yet, was about to open Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor.
I was 26. Life was good. About three days before the trip was over, I had an urge to call home. To speak to my parents. My dad answered the phone. He was so happy for me, so psyched to hear about my travels and adventures. He was not a man of many words but I knew how deep his love was.
A couple of days later we flew home. My boyfriend (and then husband) at the time received a message from a friend that we were coming home to some bad news. He didn’t tell me this. We landed at JFK and took the Hampton Jitney bus out to Manorville, where my mom was picking us up to drive us home to Bridgehampton.
When we arrived at the bus station, my mother, but also my brother, my aunt, and my cousin were all there. I was confused. What was going on? I got off the bus and my mother told me my dad had died two days earlier.
He had a heart attack. He was 56. It had happened the day after I spoke to him. I collapsed in her arms and received that news. My dad was dead. The next days went by in a whirlwind of family, the funeral, the burial, too much food and flowers—all of what goes along with someone dying in a large Italian family.
The morning of the burial I was in the shower and I broke down, literally fell in the shower in a heap, my body wracking with sobs. Everywhere I looked I saw him, felt him, heard him. A day after that I got on my mat. My body could not do much.
I felt beaten, bruised, sore, and exhausted. I listened to my breath. I moved my spine in cat/cow. I cried. And the process of healing and honoring my father began.
A couple of years later, I became a mom. As excited as I was (I struggled with infertility initially), the process of birth and being a mother at the age of 28 completely overwhelmed and shocked me. I was not ready. I was selfish, I wanted more time to myself, I wanted my body back, I wanted to sleep.
The birth itself was a very traumatic experience. Although I wound up with a vaginal birth it did not go at all the way I had envisioned it, after all the reading and preparation I had done; the many hours of natural childbirth classes.
I was a yoga teacher. I was going to be a warrior goddess, bringing my baby beautifully and naturally into the world. HA. The universe had other plans for me.. which I know now were necessary for me to gain the wisdom and compassion I have for all laboring women and the spectrum of what can happen during labor and birth (I went on to have two unmedicated home water births).
I gave birth at Stony Brook Hospital. I hated every moment of it. I hate hospitals, and I don’t handle enclosed spaces so well. I needed the windows open, fresh air, sun on my face. I felt like I was in prison! I was ready to go home less than 24 hours after giving birth but I was told Jack had jaundice.
We had to stay longer, and he had to be in the nursery. I know many women LOVE sending their babies to the nursery to get some sleep but I felt like a part of my body was being ripped out of me. The separation was too much. I wanted him in my room, on my breast, by my side. I was a hormonal, emotional mess.
The nurses hated me. Finally, we went home. My body was grossly swollen from all of the fluids that had been pumped into me- the IV hydration, the pitocin. My feet were like sausages. We arrived home and the onslaught of visitors began.
Everyone wanted to hold him, to eat, to talk. I couldn’t do it. I excused myself and went up to my room. I rolled out my yoga mat. I stretched into my first non-pregnant downward facing dog in 10 months.
I broke down in tears but my body was so beyond grateful for the asana, for the quiet, for the breath, for the practice. Every day after that I practiced. I took Jack with me to the studio and laid him on the floor and practiced. Yoga saved me, again…
Fast forward five years later- another baby had come, a divorce, moving out of my home, losing my business…. life has been full of challenges. This practice has seen me through it ALL, and then some.
Honestly I do not know where I would be without it. People ask me how I do it- three kids, a business, etc… the yoga sustains me, heals me, nourishes and nurtures. It is a gift that bestows blessings seen and unseen, in abundance.
Thank you thank you thank you, to YOGA!!!