By Shawny Ross
It is surprising how often we hesitate because of the “fear of the unknown.” About 4 years ago, when I began contemplating joining a yoga class, this fear took hold. Was I flexible enough to practice yoga? I have a visual impairment… would there be an instructor willing to accommodate my disability?
For years I had subscribed to my local yoga studio’s e-newsletter and read about all the wonderful offerings. Reading the newsletter made me feel so encouraged and hopeful. But I just could not take that first step because of my fears. Then one day I read that there was a new yoga class being offered. It was a chair yoga class – specifically offered for those participants with mobility and balance issues. Maybe that was the class for me?
Unbeknownst to me, the stars were aligning right before me! I had just reconnected with a friend who, in our new get-to-know-you conversations, mentioned that she practised chair yoga at the local yoga studio. There was that infamous common connection playing its role in my life again. A sudden sense of security came over me, easing all my fears. Not only did I find a yoga class to accommodate my disability, but I found a friend to help ease my fear of trying something new.
Yoga classes generally begin with the instructor asking participants to be fully present. In my class at Reactive Wellness in Stratford, we are reminded to let go of all the thoughts that are running through our minds. Let them go and become fully present for the next hour. All our to-do lists or whatever thoughts are occupying our minds will still be waiting for us at the end of class! We are encouraged to set an intention for each class, which is probably the most challenging part of my personal yoga journey. An intention is the practice of bringing awareness to a quality or virtue one would like to cultivate for oneself.
After adopting two elementary school-aged children between 2014 and 2017, my twice-a-week yoga sessions have become a place of solace for me. Prior to 2014, I used to slow down and pause over a cup of tea and enjoy long conversations with my husband. Post 2014, that quiet time is now filled with a different form of commitment. Our conversation is about the week’s grocery list or solving some conflict in our calendar! Often Lady Baker’s loose-leaf tea was an item on the grocery list, but as the dynamics in our lives changed so did the affect of drinking tea. It didn’t matter how many cups of tea I had in my day I just wasn’t enjoying it in the same way. How was I to find this place again in my life?
It happened quite by accident! For each chair yoga class, my friend and I walk through Café Stratford, to get to and from the yoga studio. Unfortunately, we do not always have the time to stop for a cup of tea and sit to enjoy each other’s company or the calming atmosphere of the Café. However, we do on occasion intentionally make time to be thankful for our friendship over a cup of tea; she, an Earl Grey and me, a Chai Latte!
Without having any realization that tea and yoga are both steeped in tradition, I began incorporating a cup of tea at home, following my own yoga session. Shavasana (Corpse Pose) is the relaxation at the end of a yoga session. Mind and body are relaxed and refreshed, providing a sense of calm in my spirit. I found that a cup of tea would help retain that feeling of revitalization for longer - easing my spirit through the transition from calm towards the stress of life’s demands.
Yoga is about creating a union between your body, mind and spirit. I think of savouring a cup of tea in a similar way – it is another way to bring body, mind and spirit together. The yoga relationship can be a solitary or communal relationship and so can the ceremony of steeping tea and enjoying it individually or among company.
I would never have thought a chair yoga class would bring me full circle in my attempt to find my peaceful place with tea again! Perhaps setting my personal intention at the beginning of each session has allowed me to pause and reflect on where to find the mindful space again. When we take the time to pause in our day, whether it is during yoga practice or over a cup of tea, there is power in that moment – power in recognizing how we feel.