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Photo by Abbey Moore

Photo by Abbey Moore

”…The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

Iyengar’s words sum up what we experienced in a yoga workshop, GO W/The Flow, last weekend.  An improv duo of heart and soul led us.  She guided our movement through words; he conducted our breath through music.

Yoga to live music is very special, but these two added an extra uniqueness to it.

Rows of colorful mats nesting jovial students filled the room. While waiting cheerfully in anticipation, we safeguarded our personal space making sure we had enough room to practice without bumping into others. Ben and Tori introduced themselves and requested only our presence and breath for this practice. They also explained how rather than having a particular arrangement, they teach by simply feeling the energy of the room. There was no special song planned; yet the music he played was exactly the right one.

From the very start, she connected us foot to hip, hand to shoulder, palm to palm.  Giggles emanated when toes rested on derrieres, but it didn’t take long to feel stability through community.  Gone was the need to guard our spaces.  In fact, when my hand didn’t reach my neighbor’s shoulder, I moved closer to her.  Instantly our choppy breaths, the ones that are usually ripples on a pond, turned into a powerful ocean. As if coalesced, we inhaled and exhaled as one, one breath, one body, one life-force.

“If you can’t hear your neighbor,” she went on, “breathe for them. Let them know you are here.”  Do for the other.  We are all in this life together.  Help out.  Be there.  A recent pilgrim to Grand Rapids, I had left my own community back at the East Coast.  To soothe the hurt of losing friends, I had taken the who-needs-people-I-can-do-it-on-my-own attitude. This exercise nudged me awake.  Community is what I’ve been missing.

The unified breath granted greater strength and flexibility.  We folded deeper, held our poses longer, felt stronger.  The room temperature rose.  Sweat rained from our bodies, yet when we reached for towels, Tori interjected: “Don’t wipe off your sweat.  It’s your karma.  Let it fall away.”

Ben strummed and hummed, Tori directed, karmas fell to the wooden floor, and we gradually stepped into the heart. When she asked for a hard move, she quoted Osho: “Remember…The mind lives in doubt and the heart lives in trust. When you trust, suddenly you become centered.” Don’t think about it.  Just go.

Right before the end, she instructed us to lock gazes with a classmate without exchanging words, so as to say your presence is enough. But perhaps also to say I am present to you.  I see you. A teacher once told me people want to be witnessed.

The class ended in heartfelt embraces of old and new friends, the neighbors we had leaned on, and the teachers who had guided us.  This barefoot pilgrim left the studio feeling much more grounded and incredibly grateful for the community she has found.

If you haven’t experienced a GO W/A FLOW class, put it on your bucket list.  You have to meet Ben and Tori.