Gretchen Schock and Dana Flynn
The vibrations from the other voices in the room lifted me up while we were singing a chant in Sanskrit. One woman’s voice sang higher; hers has been given the gift of being able to harmonize with the other voices. We are yoga teachers from all over the world who came together at the Yoga Journal Conference in NYC. Sitting semi circle around master teacher Dana Trixie Flynn (co-owner of Laughing Lotus Yoga Center), as she spoke of inspiration and creativity.
She told a story of how she wants to sing in more of her classes but it’s the thing she fears the most. It’s hard to believe when looking at this woman that she has any fears. Half sleeve tattoos on one arm, spikey brunette hair; she speaks with such fire and intensity.
“As teachers we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to try something new”, Dana says to the enthusiastic faces that surround her. Many of us smile, whether the other women also share her fear of public singing… I don’t know. But I smiled because I suffer with allowing myself to be vulnerable.
Once on our feet her class felt like a dance. My body moved in ways that it hasn’t in a long time. I closed my eyes; I could see the fire of dance inside me being rekindled. My thumbs tucked in, a habit I’ve never been able to break in my yoga practice but this time it didn’t matter. A vision of Madame Petrov, a ballet instructor from college, flashed in my head. “You catching a ride?”, she would say with a thick French accent to students in dance class who’s thumbs were sticking up in the air. It doesn’t matter that every time we lift a leg high in the air that my feet are perfectly pointed from years of being a dancer.
“Allow your practice to be an extension of your creativity.”, Dana says as she walks by me placing her hands on my lower back while in downward dog- pushing me further into my pose. Dana taught the class a few made up poses that derive from the Laughing Lotus Flow that is taught in her studios, “deep down inside” and “OMG!”. The Laughing Lotus poses connect to traditional yoga poses so that we flowed on our mats in a dance formation.
My body screamed- YES! YES!! YES!!
My vinyasa flow began to look like a modern dance. Nina Simone and other powerful voices crooned through the speakers and Dana continued to lead the room of women like a master conductor. Fueling each of our fires, letting go of our egos, we allowed ourselves to feel the connection.
Throughout the class Dana is speaking about unleashing the creativity of our inner teacher. At times I’m present and listening to her and then all I can hear is my body celebrating the movement.
Movements I’ve done probably thousands of times suddenly it felt connected to my soul, my spirit. At the beginning of the class Dana mentioned that many teachers loose sight of their practice. We are all so busy teaching that we don’t make time to roll out the mat. This is true for me right now.
“You need to make the time; get up early and do it!”, Dana’s voice rises higher as her fist pushes through the air. “It is our connection to source. That light is channeling through us and as teachers we go and share that in our classes.” I’ve lost sight of this, as many other women in the room expressed the same frustration.
As my body moved, the connection to source happened. My Cobra was a surrender and in Camel I literally felt my heart open. It was effortless, which Camel has never been for me. I came out of it with grace and moved into a balancing side crane with extended legs for the very first time! I’ve been practicing this pose for months and today was the day when I was truly connected, that everything was in alignment.
We moved through a series of poses, at times you could only hear the breath of the women in the room. We reached our summit, our bodies in celebration we begin our descent towards the ground, lying on our stomachs. I can’t lie on my stomach yet from the core needle biopsy performed the previous week. Propping myself up on my elbows and drawing my chin to my chest I get a glimpse of the bruises on my left breast and I exhale, instantly feeling deflated. I tune out the music, to Dana and my mind races through breast cancer scenarios. I’ve been able to avoid thinking of breast cancer for the last three days and now here it is …feeling like it’s smacking me in the face!
How will a mastectomy/lumpectomy change how I teach yoga? I like the way I teach, I like that my classes are challenging. Will a breast surgery force me into the world of gentle yoga? The thought of that makes my heart sink.
“You have everything already inside you.”, Dana says while leading us through our final vinyasa. My body is no longer in a celebration mode, my movements seem tired and my spirit has been shifted.
Laying in Shavasana, there was a break in the music and Dana says it again: “You have everything.” She pauses and then continues, “You have everything already inside you. Allow your practice to change. Allow IT to change your practice.” It was if God was speaking through her, instantly tears stream down my cheeks. I get it!!!! Allow breast cancer to change my practice. I’ve been assuming that it will lead me into gentle yoga classes with senior citizens. But I never thought that it could change my practice for the better! Or that it would open new doors for me with other women who have experienced breast tumors.
My breath is steady but the tears continue to slip from my lids and slide down the side of my face dropping onto my mat. I have an out of body experience- in my minds eye I am looking down at myself laying on my yoga mat in a room full of women and from my ribs to my head is basked in light, I am glowing.
“Roll onto your side.”
I am instantly pulled back into the present moment. As instructed I come to half lotus, wiping my eyes, Dana and I make eye contact and I half smile. She gives me a look of compassion while continuing to finish the class. We sing one final chant. I can barely get through it without crying.
Hands at prayer…Namaste…we bow.
It’s as if there is an invisible line pulling us to each other, I go to Dana and her to me. She embraces me and whispers in my ear, “It’s okay.” I pull out of the embrace but she continues to hold me close so that we are face to face, her arms are wrapped behind my back. Being in this position forces me to look her in the eye. I inhale.
“Last week I was diagnosed with a breast tumor. And it’s likely I’ll be having surgery…I just don’t know what kind. Possible mastectomy.”
“Oh sweetie-“ she draws me into an embrace again whispering in my ear “You are going to be-“ In my head she said “great”, a phrase I say daily to my children as they head off to school, but in reality I’m sure she says “fine”.
This is God doing her magic again.
My voice quivering, “I’ve been so caught up in how breast cancer is going to change my practice but thank you, your class really spoke to me- to allow IT to fuel the change. The change could be spectacular! Thank you! Thank YOU!”
She kisses my cheek and holds me for a few more seconds before we both release the embrace.
I gather my belongings while other students surround her.
I feel lighter.
I feel connected to God, to source, in a way that I haven’t in a really long time. Thank you Dana Trixie Flynn for being the instrument.