Love and Yoga in the Era of Epidemics
A few years ago, during one of this century’s worst viral epidemics, SARS, I dared to venture outside. “Don’t go,” pleaded my friend. “Don’t hang out in coffee shops anymore or go to yoga. You’d be crazy.”
I had been going to coffee shops but not to yoga and I could refrain no longer.
So, one blizzardly night when I really thought I’d lose my mind staying inside, I did it: I trudged by all the passersby wearing masks as they skidded along Toronto’s slippery snowy, downtown streets, and I made a beeline to the yoga studio.
I left the darkness of the city to enter darkness once again, but this darkness had a serene glow as it was lit by what seemed like dozens of tealights encircling the reception area and the yoga room itself. Peace immediately enveloped me.
Prayer flags hung from the ceiling, the room had a warm glow of the many flames flickering, and my favourite teacher, Vislev, was teaching the class. And it appeared that he was trying to especially cheer us up by enhancing his usually movie-like classes with the romance of candles. What more could I ask for?
Surrounding me were twenty other supposedly crazy devotees and one right across from me who would cough every time he inhaled in cat pose. Freaked me out a bit, but I decided to put it out of my mind. After all, I had to live my life, so whatever would be, would be. I’d just returned from the rainforest of BC and pretending I was still in paradise would be my saving grace.
For the next hour, Vislev acted as the conductor, leading us through an ethereal flow of downward dogs, upward dogs, bakasanas, and uttanasanas, and as I joined the surrounding sea of slowly moving human silhouettes. I felt a deeper peace flow through, immerse my blood, engage my cells and entrain my mind as I moved at one with the pulse of humanity surrounding me.
“Pretend you are the sky,” Vislev said. “The clouds pass through, but the sky remains a constant, undisturbed.” The music of ocean waves from the stereo reverberated in the background, the lights of the high rises obliterated by the windows’ reflections of flames.
As we lay in savasana, our breathing in sync with the oceanic waves, we almost felt like that’s all we knew.
As we slowly rose, about to roll up our mats, Vislev called one of the students to the front. “He has something to say,” Vislev told us, beaming. And as the student knelt in front of a young woman, I sat stunned at what I knew was about to happen, and time slurred still.
“Will you marry me?”, he asked her. Silence. Then, affirmation flowed from her lips.
It is said that one candle can bring light to the greatest darkness– even in a cave that has not seen light for eons, just as a full moon can light up the night sky.
That night showed me that love can also rise above all darkness and bring light to all in its midst–love, hope, and the knowing that all good is possible. When I emerged back into the night, a glow would lead my way. And when fear may arise, to this day, to that feeling of light and love I go again, and I believe I am all the healthier for it.
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