Yoga saved my life.
Pretty grand statement, I know. And perhaps other people say that, too. I guess depending on where you are in life or what you happen to be going through, there are a lot of things that can save your life. A good book could do it, a sign from the universe or maybe even a strong martini. But when I say that yoga saved my life, I mean it truly came into my life during one of the darkest moments I had ever experienced and gave me back my desire to really live — fully and entirely.
A few years back, I found myself completely paralyzed with anxiety. I couldn’t go to work, drive my car or even leave my house without a potential panic attack. This anxiety made me angry. It made me resentful. But most of all, it made me an entirely different person. I became a shell of what I used to be. A lot of people thought I’d stay that way. Full disclosure: I thought I’d stay that way too.
Hope: We hear it all the time. Heck, we say it all the time: “I hope I get the job!” or “I hope I make the cut!” or “I hope things work out!” The word “hope” adorns T-shirts, jewelry and bumper stickers everywhere. Our president even based an entire campaign on the notion.
So, hoping … is that all we’ve got?
The other night, I fell down the stairs. Not the whole flight, but the last four gray-slate stairs in the main lobby of the athletic club where I teach yoga. I was fully dressed and in view of at least three people when I tripped over my own boots, breaking my fall with my shins and hands. After the stars stopped swirling and the pain kicked in, I stood up, put on a brave smile and told the wincing front desk staff that I’d be okay. Then I limped out into the dark and, when it felt safe, I started to cry.
We are all born with the unborn Buddha Mind, what I call Big Mind/Big Heart, an inner awareness that we are connected with others and our environment — literally One Mind. But something happens as we grow up; we begin to separate ourselves from the rest of the world. We trade the Big Heart-Mind we are born with for another mind that centers around the small self. That self then becomes our number one preoccupation.