Yoga changes us. And sometimes, it only takes a moment.
We’ve all had those classes – we walk in feeling one way, and when we wake from shavasana, something has shifted. Maybe it’s a micro-movement in a pose that opens up a whole new line of energy in the body. Maybe it’s being able to cry about something we’ve been holding on to for a very long time, and we can finally let it go. Maybe it’s something the teacher says that allows us to see a part of life differently.
One of my favorite parts about being a blogger is when I get the chance to share a meaningful story of a person whose life has been touched by the practice of yoga. There is perhaps no better venue for that than this series, Real Men Do Yoga.
Today, I'd like to introduce William. I’m very grateful for William – for his kindness, for his willingness to show up, for the incredible example he sets for his son.
It’s rare that I invite someone to yoga, and they follow through immediately and come roll out a mat. (And bring their kid to join in the fun, no less!) It’s even more rare that they are willing to share about their experience, in such a heartfelt and courageous way.
I’m very moved when I read William’s story… and I think that is because he was able to access this powerful undercurrent of love that runs beneath Yoga. Even after just sampling an hour of asana practice, it’s like he could see the bigger picture. Yes, yoga involves twisting into pretzel-y poses, but that’s not the whole story. It’s about connecting. Yoga is a practice of living in gratitude, of seeing goodness of others. Of saying thank you.
Yoga is a way for us to love our children better, to smile at them more. Yoga is a way for us to do that with ourselves.
May we continue to practice: seeking peace, letting go, and – as William did – simply showing up.
Photos courtesy of William.
Yoga Daddy: A Post in the Real Men Do Yoga Series
A Father’s Moment of Trepidation & Enlightenment
Fear. Anxiety. Trepidation. As a former military-man of over 20 years in the Armed Forces, these are all things that I've come to know quite well, in performing the bidding of my country in various places around the world. These are also emotions that I continue to feel regularly now that I am a father of a little boy. These were all feelings that found their way to the surface when I was asked recently to attend a yoga class, a yoga class which I’d be attending with my 4 year old son.
Somalia, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan…been there, done that. In the case of Iraq, quite a few times actually. I've seen and experienced things that most people never want to see, much less know about. I’ve seen horrible things, but also some pretty amazing things…and people. I spent my life doing work that would make it so others could sleep well at night, and wake up with feelings of security and safety.
But what about those like me, who were in the service? What was our security blanket? Where could we find a sense of calm?
Until very recently, I had never considered yoga.
I’ll admit, being the “tough guy” that I am (or was, depending on who you ask), the mere mention of “Yoga” at any outing made me cringe. Funny thing is…I can’t tell you why. In fact, I still can’t figure that one out. Pride, perhaps? If I really think about it, I suspected I’d be laughed at, if I even hinted at the suggestion of trying yoga. Another part of me thought, “Well, it looks too difficult.” That last one…yeah, there is no excuse for that one. As mentioned, I've done the hard jobs. I've paid my dues to this world…many times over. I became a parent: the most difficult (and rewarding) job of them all. So what was holding me back?
It was meeting the right person, to show me the way. It came down to my soul crossing paths with another soul…a soul who didn't judge me for what I had done, or hadn’t yet done. A “yin”, to my “yang,” if you will.
It was the day that I met Rachel, the keeper of this very blog Alive In The Fire.
We connected right away, and there was an unusual ease in our conversation. Honestly, I’m still flabbergasted at how easy it was to be introduced to Rachel—still am. Until meeting her, my normal response to someone so “different” from me in the ways that she was, was that of a bit of typical sailor crassness. “Oh. You do yoga? Pbbbst.” “You eat THOSE things. Hmmpppf!” For some reason, that didn’t happen on that afternoon. It was just a simple, and curious, “Wow. Really? Cool!” Well, soon after we met, she invited me to come to her Saturday yoga class. Oddly enough…I gleefully accepted.
Now, being that my son is only with me for a criminally brief amount of time during the year, I had no intentions of leaving him with a sitter or my family, even for an hour or so. I decided that my Liam would come with me, and I explained to him where we were going and that his normal antics would have to be put on the back burner. “We’ll need to be quiet at the yoga studio,” I said. “OK, Daddy!” was his simple response. I love this kid.
Not only was I full of anxiety about attending my first yoga class, but I was a little nervous about carting along a charming little 4-year-old socialite with the energy level of about 10 fusion reactors. Little did I know, this would actually prove to be an asset in the class.
Well, to make a long story short, my participation in Rachel’s yoga class was kept to that of “interested observer.”
Yes… “that guy” in the back of the class, watching in bemused amazement. Now, before you get the wrong idea, I was more amazed by my son, rather than any of the other people in the room or their contortions happening all about me. Granted, there were some genuinely lovely people there, and all were eyeing me in some capacity (jury’s out on that one), but the star of the day was little Liam. My son.
Almost immediately after Rachel had begun directing the class in the breathing, relaxing, and stretching techniques of the day, I had discovered that my son had also taken a keen interest in the class—Rachel’s voice and demeanor had captivated him. On his own mat, he followed the instructions to the best of his ability…with the occasional help with balance from his daddy, sitting patiently on the mat next to his. I, on the other hand, mostly sat still, eyes closed. I focused on my breathing and posture. And every time I looked over to watch my son, I would notice someone from the class eyeing Liam with a measure of amazement. It was very comforting.
Fear. Anxiety. Trepidation. These are the things that I felt as I walked into that yoga studio that day. Those were the things I felt about taking a 4 year old to that class…
…but by the time it was over, those powerful feelings that hold me back from experiencing the good things in life, were beginning to fade away.
I owe that to my son, and I owe that to yoga.
I suspect that I’ll be back.
Thank you so much, William and Liam, for sharing! Can't wait to see you guys in class again soon.
PS Check out another military man's post in the Real Men Do Yoga series: Vincent.