During the last week, I’ve been doing yoga with my eyes closed. I do this now and then. It provides a new perspective to class. But this was different. I felt compelled to do yoga with my eyes closed, and I did it every class for over a week. Then, I remembered I was coming on the anniversary of my stroke, and I remembered this piece I had written 2 ½ years ago.
“I’ve been doing Yoga since 2003, but never truly knew what Yoga meant to me. On March 1, 2013, I had a stroke which rendered me partially blind, unable to drive, and with many cognitive issues. I started doing yoga five days after my stroke. Well, not-quite yoga, meditative yoga, shortened yoga, simplified yoga, drastically modified yoga, awkward yoga. Then easy yoga, better yoga, happy to be doing yoga, which turned into “real” yoga, difficult yoga, excited that I can do flying squirrel yoga. But always eyes-closed yoga. When I went to my first post-stroke class, I did yoga with my eyes closed. I said it was because my visual impairment bothered me when I did yoga with my eyes open. The truth is I never even tried yoga with my eyes open. I was comfortable with my eyes closed. It felt right, and in the moment, I felt “normal,” and that was the only time I felt that way in my new post-stroke life. It was a way of retaining my old life. I knew that right away. But was there something more to it? I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to know.
After I passed half a year post-stroke, I started thinking it was time to try yoga with my eyes open. I urged myself to do it many times at the beginning of class. Then when class started, I told myself that it was too soon. I deserved to do exactly as I pleased in yoga. I was stepping outside my comfort zone every day in my “other” life, why couldn’t I just be comfortable in yoga? I deserved this. I needed this. I needed just one place where I felt safe and comfortable and normal. So, each class I’d make up my mind that I was going to do yoga with my eyes open, but when class started, I would end up with my eyes shut.
Then one day, I went to the front of the class, near the mirror. When class started, I was surprised to find my eyes open and looking straight at me. “I’m going to be ok,” I thought. And I was. It was a glorious class, with a celebration in each pose when I passed from fear to pleasure as I realized that not only was I able to do yoga, but I could feel safe and comfortable doing yoga with my eyes open or closed. During savasana, I began to sob. Tears flowed into my ears, and I knew why I had resisted doing yoga with my eyes open. I couldn’t handle it if yoga were changed by my stroke. I couldn’t let the stroke take that away from me. It could take tons of other stuff, but I couldn’t handle life if my yoga weren’t spared. This was when I learned what yoga means to me: constancy, a way to love myself, and a time to just be me, whoever that is on that particular day.
As always, I am here pondering, “What is the lesson here?” In retrospect, it was a much bigger lesson than just what Yoga means to me.
“To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven”
The lesson is this: Sometimes life is hard enough, and you just need to let yourself feel comfortable and safe. When you’re taking on the whole world (or corporation, or family, or whatever stresses you out), find that one thing that helps you take care of yourself and do it with no guilt. Relish this time you are taking for yourself. When it’s time to push again, you will know it and it will happen. Take action and appreciate yourself for the courage it took to find the right time and space to start on your journey again.
Trust yourself and your intuition, my friends!