“When was the last time you felt joy?” my therapist asks me in session, and I have to think for a minute.
“Tuesday night, for like a second while I was running…”
She asks if there’s any other time. I tell her about the baby goat at the farm, and I even smile talking about it. She asks if we can try reinforcing that with EMDR. I’m supposed to hold on to the memory, to immerse myself in it. I can’t evoke a sense memory to save my life. I remember the little goat, but I can’t quite re-experience it. Instead I’m aware of the present moment body sensations; tense and headachey. I ultimately lay on the floor for the rest of the session where at least I’m not in so much pain, though we don’t do more EMDR.
The next morning I arrive tired and agitated to teach, but my first student though the door is Lilly, who gave birth in early December. She shows me pictures and tells me how well her young son loves his baby sister. My other students arrive too, and I inventory the issues they’re asking me to address; stiff neck, relief from nursing strain, shoulder tension, PMS symptoms. Yep, I can help with all of that.
I set my shoes at the back of the room just in case and set about teaching my second class barefoot after my injury. We start with a supported backbend that no longer works in my home practice–it makes me feel uncomfortable and anxious. I give them a second option in case any of them struggle with it. Then I lie in front of them, my chest lifted high by the blocks, and tell them I’m going to give them some quiet.
I look at them; all the blocks appear appropriately placed. Nobody fidgets or moves for the second option. I lay my head back and close my eyes. I feel the cork floor beneath my arms and the dig of the block edges into my rhomboids. The room is silent, and here with my class I’m comfortable. We do some more work on the floor and then move into balasana (child’s pose), where I direct them to try a variation if they like for abdominal pressure. I have PMS too; I’m glad for this request. Eventually I encourage them into Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) if they feel ready.
I stand up and close the doors, turn on some music, and talk them through Surya Namaskara. Standing at the wall to observe, I catch myself smiling at Lilly; she looks so easy in her body postpartum. Mary Beth holds plank longer on several repetitions–she’s making great choices, she seems strong. I move between my students as I cue the class, walking slowly. Christine gets my attention when I am nearby “Laura, would you mind cranking the window open?” That’s a great idea, and I’m happy she felt comfortable asking. The breeze floats in warm and pleasant and I am smiling again. The cork floor feels soft and warm beneath my feet.
Later, Lilly calls to me in shalabhasana (locust pose)–“Laura, would you hold my arms again? That felt really good.” Of course. I hold her forearms firmly, squat low over her legs and gently pull back. I feel the texture of her mat, the soft warmth of her skin against my hands, a slight adjustment in my own upper back.
And then I’m aware of joy–that I’m inhabiting my body, totally present with these people, confident in myself. I am a good teacher. My next cue comes out just a little pinched; overwhelmed to catch myself so happy, I’m starting to tear up. I take a deep breath and keep working.
With my class finally in savasana, I kneel behind each of them in turn. I rub my hands together before making contact so they know I’m there. When I get to Lisa, her left shoulder doesn’t yield. She’s particularly enthusiastic about being adjusted; I back off the pressure and gently use the heel of my hand to rock the head of her humerus. I feel a small give and then her scapula drops easily. She takes a deep breath and I release contact.
I sit at the front of the room and sing them out of savasana. When we open our eyes, contented smiles greet me.
My work is important.