I witnessed a quiet, powerful demonstration of balance, strength, and union yesterday in my yoga class.
We were in the final third or so of the class, the time when our teacher guides us through various poses and inversions all based from the mat, rather than standing. She’d taken us to the high point, where those who are able and who so choose can pop up into a headstand, or start floundering their way there (that would be me). My hands were folded and planted at the top of my mat, my forearms pushed to the mat as well, and my rear end the high corner of a triangle as I stepped my way into dolphin pose, the preamble to a headstand.
I find it so hard to maintain a sense of physical integrity when upside down.
Still, I wanted to try. I planted my head and started some little rabbit hops with my feet, trying to breathe instead of letting out the “whoa whoa whooooaaaaap!!!” on the tip of my tongue. Finally I went for it and kicked up, my legs coming dangerously close to an actual headstand position. There they were, perpendicular to the floor, floating up in a straight line from my head to my clenched bottom to my toes for a fleeting moment. But I lost confidence and let them slam down on my mat, my whole self now panting and recovering in an embarrassed but good-humored child’s pose.
I sneaked a peak from my bowed position to observe my fellow students, expecting they, too, would be happily incapable of the task at hand.
Across the room, like two plumes of smoke from evenly burning campfires, a man and a woman who’d been steadily practicing by each other throughout the class stood together, unified in perfect headstands. You could see their rib cages expanding and collapsing with each breath, and an invisible bond between the two of them offering intangible, vital support, one to the other, upside down, still, together, and alone.
I stayed on my mat and watched them until we moved out of the pose and onto the next. They were so present, so peaceful, so strong and balanced.
They were also most certainly born in the 1940′s.
When we finished class and said our final “Namaste,” I watched the man reach into the pocket of his shorts, retrieving some small objects, and start to fumble around each ear with his fingers. He was putting his hearing aids back in.
There was a kindness about them, about the way they practiced together.
I caught Fu practicing kindness on Pablo this morning, tending to a wound on his foot that I didn’t even know was there.
Later on I happened to walk out of the yoga studio with the couple and decided to mention my experience of their headstand. They were gracious, the wife explaining how happy she was he agreed to come to that first class with her, years ago. She went on to tell me about how their four grown children came to visit last summer, each of them a fitness addict of some sort or another, from running to triathlons. “We invited them to attend one of our Ashtanga Yoga classes. They were exhausted!” she exclaimed, smiling over at him to see his shared grin.
“What is age, anyway?” he asked, putting his arm around her.
I can’t stop thinking about them.