Yogabilities™: Peace as a civil right

Doesn’t everyone deserve to be peaceful?

 

When I tell people that one of my occupations is teaching Yoga, there are some common responses.

Oh, I love Yoga! I take it at the gym/the cool studio in the upscale shopping center down the street
or
I can’t do Yoga, I’m not flexible enough.
                          or, perhaps
I read an article about how many NFL players do Yoga.

When I tell people that one of my specialties is teaching adapted Yoga classes for individuals with special needs, there’s also a common response, variably worded but along the lines of:

               Oh, that is so wonderful that you do that for them.

Translation: you must be a saint. You are so self-sacrificing. That must be so hard.

Insert audible sigh here. I know this territory. As mother of a young woman with special needs, I’ve heard things like it all her life.
1. I don’t know how you do it.
2.
You have the patience of a saint.
3.
God gives special children to special people.

Those are well meaning comments, I know. And sure, it can be really hard, and I do happen to have super-sized patience. I also believe that each incarnated soul is special, and God//Goddess/Universal Life Force has a way of putting the right souls together to help us learn and grow in the ways we most need to. In other words, everyone—parent and child, with or without extra needs— is special, so therefore # 3 applies universally.

When someone would roll out the old “How do you do it?” in the past, I was often too tired to answer, or too taken aback, or too caught up wondering how the hell this person knows what it is I actually do with my kid, given that they maybe just met me.

As my daughter and I grew older, I’d more frequently have the right snappy response, which is “ She’s a blessing.” Short, true, succinct. These days I’ve added on a few new handy lines, also true,” If this were your child you’d do anything you could for her, too. You’d rise to it. You probably have moved a few mountains for your own kids, right?”

So, back to the Yoga teaching. I’ve been teaching my adapted classes, which I call Yogabilities™, for about 11 years now. Like most things in life, I’ve learned as I went along. I’m not a saint, it isn’t a sacrifice, and Yoga is not some special privilege that only belongs to the, umm, …so-called typical folks.

In our times, everyone has stress, most people have anxiety, and I’ll drop and give you twenty push-ups right this minute if you can find someone in your daily life who does not contend with poor sleep patterns, inability to focus, lousy posture, stiffness, or difficulty with balance. Everyone can benefit from Yoga.

Further, people with special needs have more stress than many. Society often treats them like children all their lives, limiting access and choices and self-determination and robbing people of a very basic human right—dignity. So, if anyone is more amazing than anyone else, it is my Yogabilities™ students and their peers. They deal with challenges we can only half imagine, and many do it with humor, patience and grace.

I love working with these particular students because, cliché as it sounds, they teach me as much as I teach them. There is no pretense as we sit together and breathe, practice being present, and share strategies for coping with anxious and unpleasant feelings and situations. We all seem to accept each other rather unconditionally. My experience with my own daughter serves as a constant reminder to release any rigid agenda, meet each person as they are, and go with the flow. Moreover, these students and I seem to co-create an energetic space where each person can feel welcomed and safe. In that container, I’ve seen magic happen.

On those Yogabilities™ afternoons or evenings when I am particularly tired and would like to just stay home and catch up with laundry or check out with an HGTV home show, I cue up a mantra from my daily life and let it nudge me into place: I GET TO, as in

I get to be her mother
I get to go teach Yogabilities™.
I get to spend time with some of the most interesting people I know.

So yeah, I get to share my knowledge of Yoga with people with special needs. Some of them are saintly for putting up with the rest of us. I don’t know how they do it. God must have created the circumstances whereby they can teach me the stuff that really matters. It’s so wonderful that they do this for me.

–Melinda Coppola
www.SpectrumYoga.net

Why Yoga Matters Off the Mat

yoga[1]As I prepare to return to teaching classes next month, I’ve been musing and mulling over new ways to translate the essence of the great big practice that is Yoga. My desire, when I teach, is to reach underneath what you presume Yoga is, or isn’t, and touch your curiosity about your true nature. You know what I come back to again and again, though? There is no real way to explain why your practice changes you. It just has to be experienced.

Yoga is so much more than prescribed body proddery and an opportunity to slow the heck down. The practice is like skin, stretching to adapt to the changes within as we grow and shrink, get taut and then get loose. Mostly, we choose how much we let our Yoga ripple, from that 75 minutes once or twice a week on the mat, outward to encompass moments of intensified awareness: while driving, walking, being with transition to sleep or waking.

We humans can be very good at compartmentalizing, keeping details in their place and honoring divisions between this hour and that, this person and that other one, this insight and that chosen blindness. Yoga practice can weaken the walls that we build to separate ourselves from others and from our own essence. The word Yoga actually means union, to yoke or join.  Body, mind, soul, are not strangers to each other. If we allow, Yoga takes us by the proverbial hand and leads us gently deeper into exploration of what it means to be alive as flesh imbued with something sparkly—call it Spirit or Universal Energy or God or G-d or Goddess.

This – the being alive – is so like a dance. We say yes, then no, we allow ourselves to be led, and dipped and twirled. We hesitate; back into a corner, take a break, decide a different partner will, well, change everything. We’re always dancing with some aspect of ourselves, though, so any coupling or uncoupling just gives us an opportunity to meet ourselves again and again. Yoga as a Way is continually offering up a new window, and the more we peek or study the view the more it begins to look familiar, like a spiral that appears to move outward, yet, when studied, leads in, and in, and in. There is space there, inside. Loads of it. Space and silence and, sometimes, the deepest peace you’ll ever feel.

 

 

 

 

MEDITATION | Meditation, Poetry

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The Sit

When I am asked how to meditate
There are no words the color of presence
No shapes that look like attention

I can only tell you what my senses tell me
Or how I dread and then savor it
And how little I attend to such reaction

Most of all I love the earned silence
The way it drapes over my shoulders and
Fills the hungry belly of my soul.

The deep delight lives,
not in sweeping thought away,
But in having no attachment to mental litter.

The sit asks little, really. Just to
Do it, please, and be with what arises.
Just to be it, please, and not do what arises.

-Melinda Coppola

ON SILENCE | Meditation, Poetry

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Absence of noise

It’s not that I enter into this thing called silence.
I don’t let it in or go out to find it.
Silence is my natural state.
It’s the vast patience of the sky
that clouds take so for granted,
where birds of feather and birds of steel
come and go not noticing!
It’s the space between heartbeats,
between breath, between objects
and objections.
And so I disrobe, peel off layers:
Ego and fears and the marled texture
of judgment that leaves patterns
in the skin of everyone it touches,
And the labels my layers wear—motherdaughter,
sisterwifepoet, teacherartistex-wife.
Even seeker, even that I’ll shed and go on shedding
Until being an I isn’t an option, nor a me or a her.
Until there is just the absence of noise.
There is just the absence of
Just the absence
Just the
.

-Melinda Coppola