Last week I was on a run with a good friend and her 8 yr old son joined us on his bike. Periodically while we were running my friend would gently instruct her son to stop and wait, or look for cars and she sometimes offered him the chance to ride up ahead. As we were finishing our run we ended up back where we had began; at a large pond near both of our houses. She instructed her son to meet us at a point on the dirt path where the pond ended. “Couldn’t that be the beginning?” he asked and I asked myself the same question. The pond had a trail the went around it and what could be seen as the end could also just as easily be the beginning. This interaction inspired me to look at some other events occurring in my life in much the same way and became the inspiration I shared in my yoga classes last week.
As I often do, I started my students in Savasana (corpse pose). Savasana as the first pose of the practice feels quite different then when we use it as our final resting pose. At the start, Savasana allows us to transition into the “beginning” of our physical practice on our mats, the beginning of a mindful journey where we connect more deeply with our bodies, mind and spirit and helps us create a temporary “end” of our life off the mat. Both a beginning and an end at the same time.
As we began to warm up and move through our opening Sun Salutes I told my students that our asana flow series was going to take us around in a circle on our mats. This offered a chance to experience in the body how going in a circle and coming back around can feel like a beginning, not an end. We started in Warrior 1 and then used Prasarita Padottonasna (sometimes called fan pose) to move us around towards the back of the mat. As we repeated the same side facing the back of the room, it became clear how we would find our way back to the front of the mat in perfect setup to go around in the opposite direction starting with the other leg. We added some binding and then layered in Visvamitrasana (pictured above) but we continued to work in a circle for almost the whole class. It was my hope that these non-traditional sequences would help us remember that on our path, an end can also be a beginning and that even if our path takes us in a circle, often there is a new beginning at the end.
Off the mat we have the same opportunity… to understand that often our life works in circles and our path is usually not a straight one. We can choose to see moments and events as just an end or a new beginning as well.
I was deeply affected by the question “Couldn’t that be the beginning” because last week my brother relocated 1,700 miles away with his wife and baby daughter. At first I felt a sadness that this was a profound end; the end of living in the same state as my brother (potentially for the rest of our lives), the end of being able to stop by his Midtown apartment because I happened to be in the neighborhood and the end of seeing my brand new niece grow and change.
As I went deeper I remembered that our journey is not a straight line and often we find ourselves in a bit of a circular pattern or on “the other side of the pond” seeing the reverse reflection. Ironically, 17 years ago it was me leaving my home state to relocate to the other side of the country with my new family and now here I was seeing the opposite reflection of my experience. I remembered how exciting it was to build a new life somewhere else with new jobs, new friends, new scenery and even new smells. I remembered the anticipation, fear and exhilaration of leaping out of my comfort zone into a new phase of life. Once I connected with all of that, all I could be was excited for their beginning. This end was clearly a wonderful beginning as well.
As students found their way into their final Savasana, transitioning from their physical practice which was “ending” into their true practice which was just “beginning” a calmness was felt in the room. I reminded them that the Yoga we take with us off the mat can be transformative in our lives. It can teach us that what we may see as an “end” can also be a wonderful “beginning”. It shows us that while our journey is often not a straight line, rather it has many twists and turns, it offers so much joy along the way. As we came to seated in the last moments of our time together I thanked all of them for coming around the circle with me, both on their mats and in their lives. Namaste.