Firstly, thank you to all those who have read my blog! Your feedback and the meditation session have provided me with an immense amount of inspiration and energy as I continue on my 40-Day journey! My journey is moving forward with great success as I am building good eating habits and strong foundations for my yoga and meditation practices.
Mondays are usually the hardest day of the week for most of us as it is sometimes difficult to transition from weekend-mode to work-mode. Luckily, Coral's Monday Night Heated Prana Flow Class is the perfect cure for the Monday blues. In Sanskrit, the word Prana stands for many things, such as life source, vital life, and breath, and as the name suggests, Prana Flow yoga focuses on moving and flowing with and on the breath. Heated Prana Flow is a very active and energetic style of yoga that has won over many yogis at All That Matters, evidenced by the fact that the class is always filled to capacity. It is a well known fact throughout the studio that you should always get there extra early for Coral's Monday night class. Still, there are always a few stragglers who walk in at 5:45 to find a small room where everyone is already mat-to-mat. Yet, just when it looks like there is not a single inch of floor space left, we always somehow manage to make room for everyone. In this class, the saying " invading my space" reaches a whole new meaning. While in most situations and circumstances this invasion of privacy would be viewed as a nuisance or disturbance, it is instead welcomed in a yoga class, which is exactly what makes yoga so great. Yoga is both an extremely personal and communal experience at the same time. Through breath and movement, yoga allows us to connect and give gratitude to our inner, spiritual selves that often go neglected in a society where we are constantly focused on and obligated to other people and to our to-do lists. By performing yoga with others, we feel a deep sense of community centered around the fact that we have all come to class in search of a greater spirituality and strength. It is incredibly beautiful and moving to chant OMMMM in unison with a group of strangers.
One of the greatest examples of community that I have ever experienced occurred in Coral's class on the Monday following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Coral entered the room and told us that tonight's class would be used to honor each of the 26 souls lost in the shooting, explaining that while grieving is a hard and difficult process, it is necessary and easier to handle when done with others. To honor those who died in the shooting, we performed a sun salutation for each innocent soul lost that day. A sun salutation consists of a series of postures that are meant to give gratitude and open our hearts to the sun, the source of life that all of us depend on in so many ways. At the start of each of the 26 salutations, we began on our feet with our hands at our heart and Coral would say the name and age of each victim lost, such as " Noah, age 7, left side". We would then bend forward, touch the floor, bring the left knee to the floor, lift our bodies and arms into a lung, bring both legs back into downward dog, lower into plank, then into upward dog, lift back into downward dog, bring the right knee to the floor, lift our bodies into a lung, bring the right foot to meet the left at the top of the mat, lift our bodies and arms up to standing position once again, and then lower our hands to meet our heart, just as we had begun the posture. Coral would then say" Noah, age 7, right side," and we would perform the sun salutation again on the right side. In total, we performed the sun salutation 54 times, which was not easy and took endurance and perseverance. However, instead of slowing down or quitting, every person in the room performed each and every sun salutation with energy, passion, devotion, and purpose, which was what each lost soul deserved. Each time that Coral said the name and young age of each victim, a wave of emotions shook throughout my body. As I performed each sun salutation, I could feel the emotion move throughout my body with each movement and each breath, as if my feelings of grief and sadness were being transformed into feelings of love and compassion that were being sent to the victims of the shooting. I could hear the intense breathing of the people to the left, right, front, and back of me, which only inspired me to perform each salutation with more passion and vigor. It took the entire hour and a half class to complete the 54 sun salutations and by the end, we were all drenched in sweat to the point that it looked like we had all jumped into the ocean for a swim.
After completing the salutations, we laid in savassana for 10 minutes and I immediately felt that my body and spirit had undergone an immense change. I felt lighter, almost weightless, as if something that had been weighing down on me had departed my body. This something was the intense feeling of helplessness and loneliness that I had felt since I had heard the news about the shooting: Why do these vile and evil crimes have to occur, especially to innocent children? How can one person have that much hate for others? Is humankind only becoming more and more evil? How do we build a society centered around compassion and love? By performing the sun salutations , I did not discover the answers or solutions to those questions, and I never will, but by sharing my grief with others and by feeling their grief, I was able to find comfort and hope in the fact that so many others were experiencing the same feelings of hopelessness and sadness that had been weighing me down. While laying in savassana, compassion and hope for a better future could be felt in every inch of the room. This yoga class was not only the most effective grieving process that I have ever experienced, but was also one of the greatest testaments to the power and necessity of community that I have encountered in my 22 year life. While many of us think that the best way to grieve is in silence and solitude, maybe all we really need is to move our bodies in unison with others. The next time you are feeling sad or under the weather, do some downward dog! Peace and love to all!