Ghost of Yoga Past

I took a little trip into the past this week, back to the veggie co-op where I lived in college. They’d invited me to teach a restorative yoga workshop for student residents during “dead week,” the week before exams. Dead week is a good time to teach savasana, or “corpse pose,” with lots of lying down and resting.

The theme of the co-op still is “social change through non-violent action,” a great fit with restorative yoga. Learning to relax—and restorative yoga is about relaxation—is one antidote for the subtle aggression we may bring toward ourselves. It makes space for inquiry into how we are with our bodies and how we address ourselves. What if all college students were taught in ways that shifted the internal dialogue towards ahimsa, non-harming?

The floor and couches were dirtier than I remembered, though not surprisingly so. The group of students talking around the dining room table were friendly and energetic. Indeed there were tie-dyed t-shirts (and also something new, a bit of texting during the workshop). But there’s nothing like a visit to the past to wake up to aging, middle age in particular. Here’s a revelation: When I lived there, the students I taught yesterday were not born yet.

I brought along photos of myself standing in front of the co-op in 1988 or ’89, before the Loma Prieta earthquake knocked it off its foundation. I brought a photo of myself protesting the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm. But really these photos were for me, recalibrating my perspective on self.

I’m no longer adhering with such conviction to “out of sight, out of mind.” Everything ends, and yet stays connected. All changes, and yet we remain part of everything that has happened. How we behave, how we are with each other, what paths we choose, how we approach endings… these things matter. They matter right now. Maybe it’s a midlife thing.

When I lived in the co-op, I did not practice yoga. But I did bake fresh bread and, yes, make granola. I wore tie-dye and hippie hair. I also received the seeds of change, a tradition of non-violent practice, action for social justice, consensus and facilitation skills, and insights about living communally that remain with me over twenty years later. And now I get to be part of passing on that legacy, amazingly enough, with restorative yoga.

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