As I collect my thoughts for this newsletter, I am sitting on a balcony that looks down over fragrant patches of Vietnamese peach flowers that are soothing my soul with their fragrance. The trip I’m on has taken me across the world to Cambodia and Vietnam. The journey my heart has taken since my trip began has covered a much farther distance. At the moment, I am steeped in serenity. My trip began just a few days ago on a note of chaos and confusion.
I had no idea when I booked my flight a few months ago, excited and daydreaming of all the amazing things I would see and do, that disaster was about to strike my personal life. Days before I was scheduled to leave for my yoga retreat in Southeast Asia, the unimaginable happened. My dear sister-in-law suffered the loss of a baby, my mother twisted her ankle, and my brother entered the hospital all within days of each other. To even think about going forward with my trip made me feel like the worst daughter and sister in the world. How could I take off when all of this was going on back home with the people I love the most? I did what I could to help my family and offer support, and ultimately decided that the trip must go on. I spent the whole plane ride thinking about my family and wondering if I had made the right decision. Only now, sitting on this balcony with beautiful views do I feel stillness settling into my heart for the first time since I’ve been here. At certain times during this trip, a quiet voice has whispered in my ear the word: Surrender.
Surrender? That is NEVER my personality. However, I am slowly making room for surrender thanks to my experiences here in this amazing corner of the world. My trip has included many hours of touring, three-hour yoga sessions, mindful eating, Tai Chi, and meditation. In fact, I am in the company of a top Tai Chi master from China. The group I’m with enjoys conversation, reflection, and shared meals at a beautiful resort on the water with scenery that is better described with a paint brush than with words. I barely have a moment that isn’t occupied. Yet, the weight of all that I left behind at home weighs on my shoulders.
“Surrender,” I hear whispered in the blossoms beneath my window at the yoga resort.
I didn't know why I was hearing this until I had a private session that showed me exactly why I am here. I was sitting in the session with my mind drifting to all the work that I needed to do during this trip…I was desperate to get to my laptop and plug in to check the progress on my new Gemini Collection or peek at the RSVP list for the big press event I am hosting in New York City later this April. I was snapped out of that trance when the teacher put me into the paschimottanasana position and placed a huge rock on my back (something an American teacher would never do for fear of being sued, but here in Southeast Asia teachers don’t fear such things). The instructor guided me to use the wall for a standing forward bend and the Prasarita padottanasana wide leg forward fold. By this point I was screaming in pain and he used his leg to push me even further and told me not to let go of my straps. I knew I couldn’t escape or get out of this pose.
That word again, Surrender.
Tears filled my eyes as he pushed me so hard that I actually heard my vertebra crack. He continued twisting me from my lower spine all the way up to my shoulder blade (please do not try this yourself! My experience was a unique situation that was handled by professionals with many years of training). Suddenly there was no thought of all the work waiting for me back at my room. The stress I felt over the recent hardships of my family faded into a gray background. I then formed into the strongest and most grounded upward bow pose (urdhva dhanurasana) I have ever been able to do in my life. I had surrendered and come out stronger. Since that session, I feel myself walking and standing differently – I am breathing fully again! I realized that having an open heart leads to having a flexible spine. Surrender leads to control.
Once our session was over, my instructor sat with me and told me that our bodies have egos just like our minds do. That's why he had to crack me and continuously adjusted me even when I was crying in discomfort. My egos were in the way of my life, my practice and my pranayama. The lesson? Drop the egos and peace comes. Surrender.