A Yoga Tragedy
by Sue Mickey
At 5:30 pm, Friday November 2, 2018 a man opened fire at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida. 21-year-old Maura Binkley and 61-year-old Dr. Nancy Van Vessem were killed in the attack. Five others were injured. Maura and Nancy were described as caring and helpful, working to make their community better.
At 8:00 am, Sunday November 4, 2018, thirteen people arrived at Yoga in ME to practice yoga. I was teaching that morning and was wondering how to ignore this latest American atrocity—the 304th mass shooting in 2018. Usually my personality is humorous and a bit sarcastic. I do not take myself too seriously and try to invoke that during practice especially if I notice someone struggling physically or mentally. In our studio we preach accepting yourself exactly where you are today. This aspect is important to reach the therapeutic aspect of yoga. On this day the clients were distracted. They were buying merchandise, they were chatty, and one woman was visibly upset. She pulled me aside after checking in and asked what we were going to do about the yoga shooting.
I looked at her right in the eyes and spoke with firmness, while her lips quivered. “We are going to do yoga”. This answer came from somewhere deep inside and I felt assured that this was the right answer. No joking, no sarcasm here.
Why was yoga my answer?
There are many interpretations of the word yoga. Some translations include: “to come together”, “ to unite”, “to yolk (nourish) ”, “to attain what was previously unattainable”, and “to walk with the divine”. My favorite translation of yoga is a thread. I like to think of my mind as a jumble of threads that are sorted out with yoga practice and woven into a beautiful tapestry that will become my life. This of course is a continual work in progress.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is considered to be one of the most important texts for understanding the eight-limbed path of Asthanga yoga. The 196 sutras are concise statements offering guidelines for living a wise and meaningful life. Sutra 1-2 states that yoga is the effort toward ceasing the distractions in your mind. And Sutra 1-32 states that if one can steady the mind and practice, whatever the provocations, the interruptions cannot take root. When we stop thinking we are present and connected inside and not bound to the outside world. When the ripples stop the mind is still, this is the experience of yoga. It was clear to me that we all needed yoga that morning.
Why we do the work:
Many of us really do not know at first. We may feel better physically, then notice that mentally we feel more stable, so we repeat the process. Life starts to get better as we begin to focus on being present off the mat. Awareness of our thoughts increases and we start modifying our behaviors. We begin to choose to listen to our bodies more and eat, hydrate and rest when we need it.
We also begin to focus our energy and time with people and tasks that bring us joy. Connection to our true self grows. Yoga Sutra 2-1 states that the practice of yoga reduces physical and mental impurities and develops our capacity for self-examination. And Sutra 2-2 states that this practice will be certain to remove obstacles and clear perception. Well, “Hello!” something gentle, kind, and clears the clutter, why are they not doing this everywhere?
Another great yoga text, the Bhagavad Gita, emphasizes that the way to our highest power is through our duties in life. In other words the search for your purpose is not separate from every day activities. This is a relief, I do not have to search for my dharma (purpose) it is right here in every day life.
Healing and Hope:
This Sunday November 11, 2018, a candlelight vigil will be held in Tallahassee to honor the lives of Dr. Nancy Van Vessem and Maura Binkley. There will be uplifting prayers, reflections and music. The community is trying to transform the tragedy into an event that strengthens bonds and promotes peace.
At Yoga in ME we will continue to practice, do the work and bring that peace into the world. As part of the world community of yogis we hope that when we calm the waves in our minds the ripple effect of yoga brings change.
I honor the place in you that is the same in me. This is a place where the whole universe resides. I honor the place in you of love and light, of peace and truth. There is but one