In The Practice of Practice: A Note on Community
This morning, I am sitting on the front porch of my little Hamilton home with a steaming cup of startlingly black coffee, a blanket wrapped around my body to ward off the morning chill, and a heart filled with gratitude. You see, I moved to Hamilton just two years ago with my husband: away from our Albertan friends, family, and community; so that we might take a risk together and start a new adventure on this side of the country.
I moved to Hamilton as a ‘seasoned’ Yoga practitioner. What I mean is, I have spent countless hours in seated meditation, at least double as many hours in physical asana practice, and had an encouraging and dynamic community of students and teachers back in Edmonton. I was comfortable in a Yoga collective that was supportive, stable, strong, and stimulating.
I moved to Hamilton knowing no one; I was sidelined from Yoga and physical movement due to a debilitating back injury that forced me to spend sleepless nights on the floor, and kept me away from participating in most things I loved. This physical pain, and the restrictions that it imposed, took an emotional and spiritual toll as I battled feelings of depression, anxiety and helplessness.
I moved to Hamilton as a bird with its wings clipped. I treated my body as a piece of clothing that was not fulfilling its purpose. It was used up, ripped and filled with holes; unwanted. My Yoga practice was a facsimile of what it had been; a shell of something that was strong and had given all it could. All the words that I had spoken as a Yoga teacher to my students of “treat your body with grace”, and “reacquaint yourself with your body every practice” sounded hollow and meaningless as I battled through my practice in a haze of anger.
I lived in Hamilton for a little under a year when I won a gift card at a silent auction for a local Yoga studio. The gift card had an expiry date, so I figured: what the heck? I remember nothing about the room, nothing about the instructor, nothing about the words. I just remember the rituals: coming into the space, rolling out my mat, assembling the props, smelling the familiar smells…(…all Yoga studios smell like something between patchouli and eucalyptus – or it is just me?)
I leaned on those rituals and the rhythm of the breath from the practitioners around me. I relied on them to carry me through my practice. It was the first time in years where I truly treated my body with grace. The first time in years where I reacquainted my body, welcoming it even for its bruises and breaks. Truly, this was the first time where I was in the practice of my Yoga practice. I felt my body respond with a: “finally, I’ve been here all along, where have you been?”. I continue to revel in this relationship with my body and Yoga practice. I continue to work on an approach to my mat that is with curiosity and without pride. I spent the subsequent few months ‘dating’ different studios in the Hamilton region, sampling classes, looking for a studio that resonated with me and a community that would hold a bit of space for me. Which I found through In Fine Feather. (Hi there, have we met? I’m Kelley and I teach Wednesday evenings at 8:30 and Friday mornings at 6:30 am. Happy to know you.)
I wanted to share my story because before this adventure of injury – and if i’m honest, a bit of a loss of identity – I understood my practice to be bound within certain physical guidelines of strength and flexibility. After undergoing rehabilitation, and building back my practice layer by layer through careful work at our lovely yoga studio on Ottawa street, I have come to truly value being in the practice of my practice. For me, what this means is treating my Yoga as a mark that is never fixed – it bends, moves, stretches, contracts, changes – and that is ok.
I wanted to share my story because in our lovely yoga studio, our teachers meet students every single day with their stories imprinted on their bodies: stories of injury and rehabilitation, of triumph and of success. As teachers, we also have our own stories embedded in our bodies, which then allows us to communicate with you in a shared language, textured in the discourse of experience. When we share our practice together, we are truly in the practice of our practice. So, on the days where you limp, drag, push, pull, saunter, skip, or run to class; know that you are met, and know that you are seen. Rest, as I did, into the expression of community in our space, maybe let yourself be held by the rituals that accompany it, and know that we are doing this good work together.
Looking forward to connecting more with each of you in our community,