Coming Full Circle

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When I started practicing yoga nearly a half a century ago, I had no idea what to expect.  As the daughter of an Indian philosopher and a professor of Eastern religions, I grew up hearing that the Western appropriation of all things Eastern was mostly corrupt, or at least profoundly compromised. My dad argued that yoga was not meant to be simply exercise. Yoga was based on a rich spiritual tradition that aimed to integrate mind and body to achieve oneness, unity with God.

I, however, had totally assimilated. I was American. So I too experimented with various types of yoga: Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, Bikram (hot yoga), Ashtanga, rope and suspension yoga and Davannayoga. While most of these forms of yoga are available in NYC,  I found teachers in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Mexico, Switzerland and even India during my travels. Except for a brief experience with Iyengar yoga in Pune, India, I pretty much bought into the idea that yoga was exercise.

About ten years ago I started practicing regularly at my neighborhood yoga studio that catered to Columbia University students. Just starting my sixth decade at the time, I was very pleased to be able to keep up with folks in their twenties through rigorous Hatha and Vinyasa practices that challenged our bodies and guaranteed heavy sweating.  Needless to say, I frequently had to stop for weeks because I had sustained some injury while practicing. I learned to truly appreciate savasana!!

As I aged, stiffness in my joints made yoga poses more difficult and I realized  that all my attempts to find a suitable yoga practice was not helping me become aware of the uniqueness of my body.  In 2012 at a Ayurvedic hospital in Kerala, I discovered Feldenkrais. When I returned to NYC, I started attending classes at the Feldenkrais Institute which I followed immediately with a class a few blocks away at the Iyengar Yoga Institute. I learned that a lot of yoga practitioners did Feldenkrais to become more aware of their body. This seemed oddly ironic and confusing. Wasn’t yoga intrinsically about being aware of one’s body?

In 2015 when I had to have a complete corneal transplant following 7 previous eye surgeries, I stopped all yoga practice. I was afraid to lose vision in my good eye.  Last summer while visiting friends in Boulder, I was invited by a friend to a Kaiut Yoga class. She assured me that it would be good for my aging body. Well, after one class I was curious. And after four classes I was hooked.  

Until I started Kaiut yoga I was fortunate to have two young yogis guide me with great wisdom through all sorts of health issues. My plan was to return to them for guidance.  While I often feel guilty for abandoning their teaching, Kaiut yoga has been about coming home for me.

Two of Francisco’s instructions have mostly deeply informed my routine practice.   Awareness of my personal “golden layer“ helps me understand and respect how deeply my body is able to explore each pose.  And “chronic presence ” that I strive to maintain at each practice is my path to exploring the oneness and unity my dad maintained was the essence of yoga.

Namaste

Chelli Devadutt, Kaiut Yoga Teacher