A Moment of Sorrow in Yoga

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Kahlil Gibran 

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I had an interesting moment in yoga tonight at Crunch. Generally I feel that their classes lack the yogic breathing and meditation elements, choosing to forego chanting and reflection for the sake of fitness workout. The instructors look like younger versions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and most of them shout into microphones as they rush you through the poses, pushing for sweat. But tonight we had an older teacher. She wore the Crunch uniform shirt, but it was maroon and looked faded. She had grey hair, an ethereal manner, and I felt she could pass for a human in Berkeley. Her butt was even a little saggy, and she started the class off with asking us to get comfortable and think of three things we were grateful for. I thought: my house, friends, and then didn’t have time to think of a third before she continued on with the practice. But it was ok.

We had a nice stretching flow, and then in Sivasana (which I usually dislike and monkey-mind my way through), I actually relaxed. And let myself go. The teacher spoke some words –a quote, I presume– about happiness.

“Happiness is one of the most amazing feelings… sometimes we have it, riding on its wings soaring to the epitome of human experience… But when we don’t, we glance around desperate to catch just a glimpse of it. But the people who truly experience the most happiness are those who also experience the greatest sorrow… We don’t know if it’s that they just feel things more strongly than others, but what we do know is that those who have suffered greatly, are also able to appreciate joy so much more when they have it.”

I breathed, willing myself not to cry, not to panic, just to move through it, but as I heard the girl next to me breathing coarsely and sniffling away tears, I let myself give in too… and I let myself feel sadness. As I thought of memories with my ex, and of all those I left behind in Israel, and the amazing Shabbat dinners we shared in community where I felt such strong joy, I also felt sorrow thinking about what I’ve lost. The people who live so far away, the places I cherished that I may never see again depending on the course that life takes me on… The sense of confusion and unrootedness that I push away daily here in New York, but that springs back up each time I open my eyes in the morning.

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Tears leaked out of my eyes, slowly, awakening me, and frightening me at the same time. We never want to be sad, but maybe, like the teacher said, allowing ourselves to experience sorrow will clear the way for true joy to enter our lives. So, in the name of making room for new things—though I so badly want to hold onto the past—I cried, and I breathed. It felt generous to allow myself this; also right, and calming.

After the class, I awoke and saw the girl next to me wiping her eyes as she rolled up her purple yoga mat. She was blonde, a little chubby, and her cheeks looked pink from the practice. My cheeks were also warm and wet, and I felt the desire to reach out to her, to somehow let her know I was also moved by the quote. What if I were just to hug her, and share a human moment by sharing whatever hardships and troubles we were each experiencing during that sivasana. But I said nothing, because I didn’t want to embarrass her, or myself, and because for some sick, strange reason our society dictates that crying is something to be done alone, in the privacy of one’s own quarters, rather than in community and solidarity with one another.

So I tied my shoes, put away my mat and left the class, feeling somehow more alive and ready for the week than I have been since I got to New York. I had a vigorous hourlong run on the treadmill as I watched the ESPN World Series movie and fell in love with the Giants all over again. Showered, took my ten minute relaxation time in the sauna, and exited the gym into the street. Nighttime: 51 degrees, quiet,  smoke from a woodburning stove… Headed home, looking forward to relishing $2 sushi rolls and writing here in my cozy living room to the musical backdrop of Mumford and Sons. One more Sunday in Brooklyn.

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One comment

  1. Beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing. Going to repost the quote as a reminder to myself. Also, your comment on only crying alone made me think of RC (http://www.rc.org/) and the practice they advocate of crying, laughing, screaming, etc with others as a way to release past hurts. Hope you are well.


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