Freezing mist and drizzle set in around here on Wednesday. Schools closed early and stayed closed through Thursday. The Y has a no close policy. They stay open for people who need to be someplace warm. This meant that the yoga class I teach on Wednesday evenings would not be cancelled unless I called it in. I cancelled my class the week before because of work and weather. I did not feel like I could get away with this two Wednesdays in a row. So, I bundled up and with warnings from Michael to drive very very safely, I went to teach my Wednesday night yoga class.
I arrived early and when I went to lay out my mat and set up my things, one of the Y trainers was set up in that space with one of his clients. I chatted with the trainer about yoga. I did a few rounds of surya namaskar. I reviewed my notes for the class I had prepared for the evening and I eyed the clock. I was starting to think that no one was going to show up for class. A minute before my class was supposed to start, a woman came rushing in and said “Oh My GOD! I’m so glad you’re here.” She turned out to be my only student for the evening and it was probably the best class I’ve taught in a while. I was able to take the class I had planned and tweak it specifically for her needs. We flowed through a series of poses and then did a few exercises to prepare for headstand. She mentioned having problems with tightness in her shoulders and I showed her a few exercises she could do at home relieve some of that tension. When the class ended, the woman expressed her gratitude to me several times. She thanked me for staying and teaching the class even though she was my only student. She thanked me for class and the work we had done together in this practice. She thanked me for how good her body felt after the practice. She was so grateful.
This gratitude, of course, made me feel good but what I did not express to her was how grateful I was for her being present in our class that evening. For one thing, I was grateful to be able to share my practice and knowledge to this woman in a way that will help her beyond the yoga mat. At the same time, being able to give the gift of easing one’s physical pain is a soothing balm for my soul. Wednesday would have been Chris’s 48th birthday and I spent the day with this knowledge ping ponging it’s way around my brain. I remember that he was in good spirits for that last one. We’d had friends visiting and there had been laughter. Always laughter. Then Chris immediately started to decline. He went from being able to communicate effectively to making absolutely no sense in one day. The worst of it though, was the pain. Chris was in so much pain and there was nothing I could do to ease it. I could give him pills that would barely manage his pain, but managing pain is not the same as being pain free.
It was horrifying to have to watch him suffer and debilitating to not have any control over the amount of his suffering.
I did not do anything monumental for this woman. I simply helped her to ease tension in her shoulders so she would sleep better that night. There are things within my control and abilities and there are things that are not. Controlling Chris’s pain was not in my control or abilities. At one point while working on headstand, the women said “this is hard! and it shows me that I lack strength.” I said to her “You have the strength to do the things you need to do. No where in our daily lives do we need to do headstands. Sure, it’s fun and feels empowering to be able to do these kinds of poses, but don’t forget that you are strong in other ways.” I did not realize at the time that I was saying those words to myself.
I have the strength to do the things I need to do. I am strong in other ways.