It so embarrassing to say this, but my first day back at running, I rolled my ankle (within a quarter mile of starting, no less). Oddly, I managed to “save” the ankle I rolled, and I was so pleased with myself. Only later could I feel a strain in my other ankle – the one that sacrificed itself and is now the one I’m tending to. I don’t remember how it happened, since I was focused on ankle one. So, today, 10 days later, I’m still gingerly moving ankle two.  

I recall telling a friend that “I’m not really doing much of anything,” with regards to working out. She replied, “Yes, you are. You’re breathing each morning, doing a backbend challenge, and doing your own stretches.” She was right, of course. I was totally judging myself in what “doing something” means. It made me go back to the why of our practice, especially as it relates to today’s context.   

In order to strengthen the immune system, Bikram Yoga stimulates five other bodily systems: the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, spinal, and nervous systems. How? By exercising, which is stretching: 26 poses (preferably in heat) to re-organize the body. I may not have the ideal heat at home, but I am stretching a lot, going deeper in areas with my repetition, and (as we know) it’s not how much you do, but how well you do it.  

Michele doing a wall walk.
Michele's owie.
Michele drawing circles in the sand.
Michele with sister Sheri

There’s more though.

Probably one of the hardest days ever was Friday, April 3rd. My sister has been here for 6+ weeks, but last Friday she was finally going home. It is really rough to fly now, however, her boys are back home in Chicago. Her need as a mom to be there with them was understandably the priority. Given my sister’s health condition, we were able to get a direct flight. I was even able to go to the gate with her. She boarded first with mask and gloves on, and upon arrival was taken by wheelchair straight to baggage, where all three of her boys were waiting to collect her. I am grateful it was an easy process.

Since this sprang up so suddenly, we spontaneously decided to visit Seabright beach in Santa Cruz before her departure. Thursday was super lovely – all sun and warmth – so the ride down was green and glorious. My sister loves a touch of old rock and roll, so Van Halen comes on and we just hit it on Highway 17 with little traffic.

I’m not sure why it triggered then, but I began to cry. My sister was so in awe of the trees, the blue sky, kept taking pictures, and commenting on the beauty. At the beach, we wrote messages to our mom in the sand, we watched surfers ride waves several feet high, and had fun talking to people from a reasonable distance away. The whole time, I was conscious that it was my last day with her, and all night I tried to hide my tears, my emotions. As I left the airport around 9 AM the next day, I continued to cry like ALL day.  So many of you helped me – thank you. I literally was swimming in tears as I cleaned the house, as I ate, as I slept. My emotions were exposing a deep love that I have for my sister but also a deep sadness: I am now alone.

Until she left, I didn’t have to face that realization. I instantly thought of the millions out there that have had this same gut-wrenching feeling. It can take your breath away!

This is why self-awareness is so important. If I didn’t have the tool of self-awareness, I would be lost in the loneliness. In 2019, I noticed so many more industries outside of yoga finally talk about the importance of self-awareness. I remember commenting at how good that was!

And if there is ever a time to use that tool, it’s now. In fact, I’ve called it a spiritual weapon. In my faith, we talk about wearing your spiritual armor. It’s this idea of being protected; so too, with self-awareness. With all the information and conversation about COVID-19, with the suffering and struggles that we hear and are experiencing, and especially coupled with the isolation, those voices of frustration, despair, and loneliness can be LOUD. It’s not enough to just ‘know,’ you have to boldly act. In Tony Robbins’ “I am not your Guru,” he would loudly recite these crazy, fast affirmations each morning, and then jump into a 57 degree, small pool. Or I think of George Winston, the famous pianist, who would sit at the piano bench on stage, ready to perform, and would feel his feet on the ground to shake off those “not serving me right now” voices.

So, I say self-awareness is a weapon because there is nothing “wishy-washy” about your need, my need to respond with conviction, decisiveness and even attack. Years ago when I was experiencing more grief – darker days after my mom had passed – my friend and homeopathy doctor would tell me to refute those more depressing thoughts. Yes, act, and act assertively I did on my own behalf!

So what did I do this time to handle the drowning feelings of being alone? I called friends, I allowed myself to cry, I did amazing backbends and felt my heart center open. I cleaned, I wrote, I laughed, and I knew with my awesome self-aware maturity from my yoga that I am merely in a moment. I’m present to what I feel. I can handle this struggle, own how alive I feel, and be the better for it.

On Saturday, I had the first opportunity to teach a class over Zoom. (We are now hosting our Karma classes on Zoom every Saturday at 4:30 pm – please join us!). 100 of you signed in and gave me the privilege to be in your bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens as you each shared your adapted versions of a hot humid yoga room. What a delight to see your creativity and determination! One member even built a fire in his living room to heat things up for class (oh dear!). From all over the world, listening to the words, the dialog, that you’ve come to know so well, you do this yoga. Even with your teacher coming to you via TV screen. Yes, you practice for prevention, improving the immune system, but also for self-awareness.

Zoom yoga class

Michele lead a class over Zoom. Look at all those virtual triangles!

Those warm-up moments just before party time ready you for those impactful words of “lock the knee.” That is the moment where you exercise and muscle up the spiritual armor of self-awareness. Mind and body connected, you are boldly present and boldly act for those few precious seconds on all that it takes to Lock the Knee and “make up your mind from the very beginning not to give up.” Now that’s bold and that’s breathtaking. From all your comments on how much you need and miss this yoga, it is necessary, an essential, in your lives right now. I get it. Me too.

We are born with “eyes that see, ears that hear.” With self-awareness, you are dismantling those things that move you away from that which you possess, from that which you are. Quarantine your infectious thoughts by stretching!  Stretch to immunize, stretch to protect, stretch to connect, and stretch to self – realize!