Avary Chong as founder of code-R, a NGO promoting Purposeful Living.
RESET Chapter 7 — Peace and harmony
“Adho mukha shvanasana,” directed the yoga instructor, and Olivia was pleased she could naturally follow along with this next pose in the sun salutation sequence before the teacher continued with the English translation for newer students, “downward facing dog; hold for 5 breaths.”
As Olivia engaged her breathing and felt herself stretch, rooted to the ground, she could sense her worries disappearing, melting away one by one as she continued to focus on her breathing, giving each breath deliberate intent. Inhale. Exhale.
At the end of the hold she remembered to tighten her core before lightly jumping both feet to her hands at the top of her mat, shoulder width apart. Keeping her palms on the ground and arching her spine down, she lifted her head to inhale once, before exhaling into a forward fold.
“Uttanasana. Savour the stretch at the back of your hamstrings, draw your crown down to the earth.”
As she allowed the deep stretch to soften the tension at the back of her legs, Olivia smiled as she remembered her first yoga class several months ago and being unable to even touch her toes. She’d gone with Felicity, who had coaxed out from Olivia the falling out she’d had with her family and the temporary homelessness she’d had to endure.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned from having to deal with my own issues, it’s that you need to create balance in your life and find space to just be in yourself,” Felicity had advised Olivia one afternoon as the latter sat in her supervisor’s office in tears, having explained why her work that week had been inconsistent. “Being able to accept the negativity in yourself and your past is a good step in learning to manage those inner struggles, but that growth won’t go anywhere unless you find pursuits that allow you to mentally regroup, and recharge your emotional energies. Personally, I’ve found yoga has helped me cultivate greater mental discipline and inner balance. I’m going to a buddy class later this week if you’d like to try for free and see how you feel about it.”
Olivia had taken Felicity up on her offer, and she hadn’t looked back. She’d taken to yoga like a fish to water, eager to learn and improve her practice. She had found that a regular early morning vinyasa flow class before work was just what she needed to set a positive energy for the day, and she frequently attended a relaxing hatha class in the evenings as well if she had time. She’d even started going to yoga meditation workshops, to help hone the emotional and mental centering briefly introduced in regular classes. The consistency and growth of her practice created a welcome flow in the rhythm of her life. And even though it did nothing concrete to solve the issues she had with her family or her lingering anxieties at work, she felt much more balanced, grounded, and secure.
“Hey, Olivia!” said one of the other regulars. “We’re going to try that new smoothie bar down the road. Join us!”
The rest of the class continued to file out the studio as Olivia considered the invitation to join Kathy and her small crew — high-flying professionals all. When she’d first found out who they were she’d been a little intimidated, but had come to understand that in this gracious community, none of that really mattered. All that mattered was their shared humanity, and willingness to lift each other up, just as their yoga teacher for today had reminded them earlier:
“Be kind to yourself. Be kind to one another.”
Food for thought: How are inner and outer balance foundations for personal empowerment?