Yoga Begins with Small Steps Done with Great Kindness

By Alex van Frank

March was the beginning of a new workshop here at Ginseng titled, “Big Love Yoga.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it was a workshop especially for those 30lbs and over who had never practiced yoga. The objective was to access a population that is under served and underestimated.

The first day was perhaps the most intense. When I introduced myself to each student I could see the nervousness, apprehension and to a certain degree the pain of self-judgement. I heard things like: “I can’t get off the floor” “I can’t touch my toes” “I was in better shape last year” “I can’t believe I’m like this…” “She doesn’t look overweight.” That is when I imposed my first rule; NO judgement -of self or of others.

The moment we start that internal chatter of judgement we start shortening our breath, then our mind starts to chatter faster, our heart starts to beat faster and then BOOM – ‘I can’t do this’ ‘this is too hard’ etc. The cure? Close you eyes take a long deep breath, then exhale slowly, open your eyes and smile. Yes, I said smile! When you are having great difficulty it helps to smile because that opens up an opportunity to connect with someone else who is having a really hard time or is frustrated -even if that someone else is just you.

Cultivating kindness of where you are and where others are in the present moment will help you evolve into a better person and ultimately it will become a better community. Lofty statement I know. But in creating this environment of kindness we give space to creativity and unknown possibilities.

One student, Maya, was unable to lift her arm due to years of misuse and no use. She was apprehensive walking in the first time but as we got going in class I could see her letting go and doing what she could. As the workshop went on I felt like I was a gardener watching all the growth. Maya was like my corn stalk that had gotten battered by the wind. I could see her both physically and emotionally growing out her battered idea of what she could and couldn’t do. Yoga in this supportive ‘garden’ of smiles and laughter allowed her and the other students to progress quickly.

Maya is now firmly on her way to recovery and doing her home practice as often as possible. My other amazing students are hitting landmarks such as getting off the floor unassisted, easing up on medications, smiling more, lessening of tendinitis, lessening of arthritis, getting closer to touching toes, getting more movement in their lives -personal, physical, emotional and spiritual. I am in awe of how far they have come. It all started with just walking in and being kind.

Maya is now able to lift her arm for the first time in 2 years!

Maya is now able to lift her arm for the first time in 2 years!