A Devasting Yet Cinematic Tragedy
may 25 2019
I used to have a best friend who I experienced yoga with for the first time in the Annex of our local lighthouse. It has a wood burning stove and sits on jagged coastal rocks, no lifeguard on duty. Our pacific ocean can be very far from peaceful. My teacher was a tall svelte (I would guess German) man with a very deep voice. My best friend, I will call her Pearl, and I were by far the furtherest from middle aged there. It was the year 1999 I believe. Poor upper body strength and hamstrings like a strung bow didn’t give me any particular talents towards doing yoga. I remember when he would make us hold downward dog for what felt like ages, my arms would burn like the fire. In closing of every class I experienced my first chemical death in Savasana, for non – yoga nerds “Pose of the Corpse.”
I grew up and moved away from my little lighthouse where Pearl and I worked faithfully until some evil corporate puppet decided she wanted more control. Or at least that was my perception, they demoted our manager who had devotedly kept the property immaculate as his own for more then two decades, forcing him to leave his home in sadness and shame. He taught me to never try and fight a rip current, swim diagonally. He told me a story of how he was casually surfing at Mavericks when he bumped into a Great White Shark in the middle of a wipe out. I got knocked off some rocks on my 18th birthday walking on Grey Whale cove, the current was so strong I shredded my skin trying to cling to the rocks and escape its grip on me, past the breakers I was able to find my way out of its conveyor belt and onto a nearby beach.
By 2010, Power Yoga was so trendy the gym in Monterey had Yoga Barbie who was built with no fat and quadriceps that cracked walnuts, bicepts/tricepts like bricks with and the fabled height of Paul Bunyan. Her red hair and glowing skin lead dozens and dozens of students packed in her house, her alter, bowing to her commands in chattoranga and deep lunges. Carefully balanced on our back toes for another round, and another… I could do some fun tricks I can’t do anymore. Until Pirformis Syndrome progressed to Sciatica. If you haven’t experienced yourself in some countries they call it “a womans pain” because it is common with pregnancy. One of my former patients was a Bulgarian solider and he mentioned having it while serving in the office, but since it is a sitting disease they put him back on the hike and it worked itself out. The nerve pain originates around the hip or gluetus them runs down back, side or front of the leg. Varying degrees of unpleasant to crippling for some. Mine mostly nagged. But the tightness of yore was long gone leading to the heads of my femurs being hypermobile. Did not do yoga classes for a while, here and there.
Fast forward 2018 and with all the duties I have to fufill at the barn maintaining a routine seemed impossible. But with my tattered body aging I know I need to stay strong, stay loose and happened upon a lovely studio in Downtown Santa Barbara. Spanish Style buildings sparkle in the perfect weather, century old trees line wandering avenues and dance in the wind blooming bright purple in June. Tourists move about like schools of fish mix and matching Latin, Slavic and Germanic based languages. I would walk with activity all around with a soothing stillness in my mind. I love that town. Nearly 20 years later my yoga career has reached its twilight, which I hope to maintain until the end of my time. Some tricks I once did are long lost, and being out of practice, I essentially had to start over.
On the mat the ego had to be fully smothered as I found even tree pose was challenging for me. I used to laugh at the easiness of tree pose. Now I just laugh at myself for having to fully observe the pure potency of yoga, which is telling your body thank you for showing up and it matters not the state. I found a class taught by the same teacher two days a week. It was “Gentle Yoga” but after taking the classes week after week my body began to remaster its old routines. I also did more meditation styled classes which so much helped my frantic mind.
Sometime that Fall, after having met my physical emotional salvation in one of my teachers regular classes, I greet her and she says, “You didn’t know I was leaving?” Tears welled up and I choked on my words realizing my salvation was but a fool’s.
In March, my body became creaky and I knew I was on borrowed time, I showed up to my regular spot for “Gentle Yoga”s new face. I told myself, “Ok, you know you are going to be hypercritical because no one can fill her shoes.. So keep an open mind.” A skinny LA Princess turned Priestess showed up and started her class by makes us introduce ourselves by name. After she said quotes and made a “theme” for the class I was struggling to maintain a positive outlook. She stuck a group of very disgruntled elderly folk into Virasana. With an open mind but skeptical heart I followed her cue to drop my head back into extension. Burning nerve pain seared around my skull, over the tops of my shoulders and down my arms. Yes, it is true I was injured during Gentle Yoga.
After an ivory Yoga tower letter to the Studio managers, I began my healing process with lots of sticking and snapping. Might sound terrifying to some, but without my Chiropractor and my Acupuncturist I would not be crackling away on this keyboard so care free today.
Pearl and I had drifted apart just a couple years ago, after years of life changing experiences and world shattering interactions. Even though we had been apart she is one of the single most shared history out of anyone in my life. We spent day after day together in our teens. We didn’t really need boyfriends, we were free, we felt we had something better. We were wild in an uncharted world, we loved people, the ocean, basically everything a silly movie like Blue Crush could never capture.
Yet, despite my brain trying its hardest not believe, this world lost her last March to stomach cancer. Meeting my maker on my mat had nothing to do with the fact that I wasn’t the yogi I used to be, but why I was here and she was not. Subpar performances of asanas could not help but remind me: do I even deserve to be here?
She was so much larger then this life just like the cliche claims. She would tell me in our teens that she felt she would die young. She would be in her underwear picking fights with some unsuspecting airhead at a frat house one summer night and wooing an entire room with her magic, her beauty, her cult leader charisma the next. Days I do not think of her are few and far between. I cry when I hear songs we used to sing together and seek out the movies we used to watch. I suspect those who leave us tend to linger in our most vulnerable moments. In my darkest thoughts I can not help but wonder was she ever really here and how is she really gone.