Poet in Residence
Bodies and Voices
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CARYN MIRRIAM-GOLDBERG
In late September, I graduated, not with long robes and angular hats, but in a tie-dye tank top and yoga pants along with fifteen other women from our year-long yoga teacher training certification. Under the warm guidance of Gopi Sandal, our yoga teacher, and immersed in the deep wells of love and humor we created together in our group, we have sun salutation-ed and pranayama-ed and anatomy-studied our way through the seasons.
The umbrella of yoga we did, were and learned was Bhaktivana Yoga, the yoga of devotion and the yoga of being fully engaged in the world, and along the way we learned about everything from soup (along with how to make all kinds of other things) to nuts (if you consider some of the more esoteric yogic practices). Mostly, we studied the practice of yoga as life practice: a way to continually bend and reach yourself toward the divine in concert with your body, community, thoughts and deeds.
Peacocks, kittens and downward dogs
Instead of marching up or down a hill to receive our certifications, we gathered in Gopi’s yoga studio on the second story of a small stucco building with a view of her family’s four oxen (all beloved pets with Hindu mythology names), a pair of peacocks (who voiced their own interpretations of yogic texts loud and often during the past year), and occasional kittens. There, we unrolled the stick mats, filled the space with hugs and bolsters, and stuck our butts in the air in downward dog, before crawling on the ground to arch ourselves into cobra. In fact, we did a whole yoga class, complete with highly-entertaining partner yoga.
After climbing, sitting and leaning on one another all year, it was all homecoming.
After class, we gathered in Gopi’s living room with friends and family present for her to present a certificate to and say something about each of us (turns out I’m a warrior of truth and a spunky rebel girl) as we each lit a candle and wrapped ourselves in the energy of the moment. Everyone was shining.
Then it was time to eat, and in keeping with our intentional confusion of the words “chakra” and “chocolate” throughout this training, we had a chakrolate cake (and yes, I did break my no-sugar vow because it just would have been so wrong not to) along with much else. As has been the case each month during our meals at Gopi’s together. Sitting outside of the deck, we had to bat away the kittens while the peacock stared at us with his wry little stare as if he were rolling his eyes, and as one particular ox batted his beautiful long lashes at me.
Heading toward whatever comes next
Leaving didn’t feel like leaving for many reasons, not the least of which was that I’ll continue to do yoga with these women. Yet it also was leaving an intensive study, stretching our bodies while expanding our hearts together in just this way or that.
Over the year, I found our monthly 16-hours-of-class weekends thrilling and exhausting (although thank heavens we usually had naptime when Gopi would read us one of these esoteric and totally wild-beyond-imagination yoga fairy tales), waking me up in new ways while wiping me out in others. But I know this time we made together was precious and is now over in just this particular configuration of people and intent.
Whatever happens next, I’ve learned so much more about how to bend myself toward it, center my breath, and lean into the beauty of life however it unfolds — like a lily in the center in the my heart or thunderstorm in the center of the sky. Life is so full in each moment, whether it’s the moment of laughing together while serving each other chakrolate cake or the moment driving home.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.