“I couldn’t stop crying in Savasana,” my friend Elaine once told me. She was struggling through a bad time and finally, in yoga class, she felt at ease. It was such a relief that she broke down.

Yoga can catalyze emotions in people. I’ve witnessed spontaneous crying, during or after asana, most likely at all-day workshops. The hours and hours of yoga, the divergence from routine, somehow trigger emotional release.

ambika-bed-roomI myself can’t recall ever crying in class. For me, yoga has the opposite benefit. Asana (even a strenuous session) calms my mood swings. If I’m on the verge of losing it, yoga steers me to a normal, neutral state.

About two years ago, however, I took a weekend workshop with Aadil Palkhivala in Kealakekua on my home island of Hawaii. I was curious about this well-known teacher, about whom students seem to have strong feelings, either way.

That weekend I drove from Hilo (where I was visiting my parents) to Kona, on the opposite side of the island. (There’s nothing like a solitary drive or solo trip to shift your mindset. From Vancouver to Hilo to Kona, I was distancing myself from home and habits.) The place I’d booked through VRBO unexpectedly fell through (it was double booked) (are you &%$#@ kidding me?!). But the proprietor found a backup for me with his friend Ambika, and I landed in a decent, if makeshift, in-law studio, with a mattress flat on the floor and a gecko on the loose.

I found Aadil’s teachings quite compelling. He discussed philosophy in an approachable way, connecting it to the asana and to daily life–and he had a sense of humor (I didn’t expect him to be so cheerful, even occasionally comical). The asana practice included novel (to me) ways of working with poses, a memorable shoulder/elbow/wrist/finger sequence inspired by his mother, and lots of partner assists.

All that you want is downstream

ambika-gecko-2The night after the workshop ended, I woke from a dream in which I was crying. My dream was fuzzy, but in it I was cognizant of Aadil’s words, “All that you want is downstream.” While happy enough with my life, I was lamenting mistakes made, roads not taken, words left unsaid. I was feeling the weight of grief and loss, of time, of opportunities. In my dream I was distraught and yet consoled by those words. Maybe a life better than I could ever imagine is downstream, if I let myself go with the flow.

When I woke, I found myself crying in real life. To my surprise I suddenly noticed that–get this–it was pouring rain after a dry spell. The bed was in a nook under a plexiglass roof; the raindrops drummed a loud, melodic beat. Now, I’m super rational and absolutely not the New Agey type who sees symbols and synchronicity in ordinary circumstances. But, in the dark, by myself, I felt as if the sky were crying with me.

Later, I contemplated how I felt no strong emotion during the workshop. I absorbed the teachings with a reasoning, even skeptical, mind. I scrutinized my copious notes to find the context for that sentence, and I couldn’t find it. I didn’t record it; it had stuck to my unconscious.

Aadil Palkhivala in Vancouver

Aadil Palkhivala will teach a three-day workshop in Vancouver on May 30, 31, and June 1, 2014, at Creekside Community Centre, Olympic Village.

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