Coming back for more

It’s pretty rare that I’ll re-read a book or re-watch a movie that I haven’t seen in years.  The first time I read Catcher in the Rye, I was about 12 or 13.  I read it again in my late-20’s.  It was a completely different book.  I’m still not sure if I’m happy or disappointed that it was so different.  It was as if I couldn’t trust my own memory.


The first time I saw the movie Xiu Xiu was at the Opera Plaza when it first came out.  The theater was nearly empty in that sad, arthouse way.  I was completely engrossed.  The movie left me angry, heartbroken and crying.  I mean really crying, non-stop, during the last 20 minutes.

It’s one of my favourite movies of all time.

I got a chance to see it on the big screen again at the SF International Film Festival a few years ago.  I remembered the story.  I knew the ending.  There’s no way I would cry.  I wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t angry.  There’s a maturity that comes from time.  I now see the story from several sides without blaming any one person or group in the situation.  But, those last 20 minutes hit me hard again.  Two waterfalls silently poured down my face while I stood against the side wall.


When the lights came up, I looked through my wet, bloodshot eyes at the woman standing next to me.  It was the director, Joan Chen.  She gave me a smile and walked to the podium for the Q&A.  Listening to her talk about the challenges and obstacles that she and the team faced to make the movie was awesome.  She talked about her own family at that moment in history.  How lucky she and her siblings were.  And, why she wanted to tell that story in that way.

Now, when I choose to watch this move again, I’ll have a deeper understanding from the artist’s point of view.  And, a nice memory of looking at Joan Chen seeing me totally lose it.  And, I’ll probably cry.

It’s just like yoga.

You may think you remember your first downward facing dog.  But, like reading Catcher in the Rye, the memory may not be quite accurate.

It’s hard to forget the first class that made you feel great though.  That’s why we come back to the mat.  Just like watching Xiu Xiu, there’s a new and familiar feeling.

And, hopefully, it gets better every time.

Just Like the Big Kids

This ad for yoga insurance always made me giggle.  As a teacher, I can ask about injuries at the beginning of class.  I can use euphemisms like tweaks or strains.  But, the bottom line is that people either tell me what’s going on or they don’t.


Some students are just shy and don’t want the whole room to know or don’t want the teacher to know.  They don’t even want to know about it themselves.

Other students think it’s none of my business because I’m just a yoga teacher.

And, a few have no idea about what’s going on with their own bodies.  “How long have you had scoliosis?” “I have scoliosis!  What’s that?”

For years, I stopped asking.   It seemed pointless.  The first Downward Dog tells me almost everything I need to immediately know about a student’s physical and mental practice.  I can see issues with hamstrings, shoulders, spacial awareness, ego, wrists, core strength, confidence, knees…etc, etc, etc.

Because yoga is a business and studios require it, I started asking about injuries again.  It’s a liability-thing.

The hardest thing to work with is that fine line between curiosity and ego.  I know it well.

When I was a kid at Spring Valley Elementary School, the playground was a real playground.  We climbed sturdy wooden structures, and heavy metal bars and rings.  We flung ourselves in the air on swings with nothing but asphalt or, sometimes, a thin rubber pad below.  Recess was serious, almost Darwinian.

I’d watch the big kids hang upside down from the rings high above our heads and whirl around the metal bars with awe and, admittedly, a little jealousy.  I wanted to do that!

One day, the bar was free.  I ran over, and wrapped my sweater around the bar, like the Big Girls, for padding.  It took a few (maybe more than a few) attempts to get up on the bar--I chose the highest one.  I sat there for a moment trying to figure out if I hold overhand or underhand to spin around.  I tried underhand.

And, landed right on my face.

It hurt but I thought I was ok.  I didn’t know how much blood there was until the teachers panicked.  I put my hand up to my face.  My nose was too sensitive to touch and my grown-up teeth wiggled in place.   My grown-up teeth!!!

After visiting the doctor and dentist, and getting the ok to play.  I went back to bars and asked the Big Girls for help.  Some of them laughed at me.  But, a few helped me out.  Within weeks, I was whirling around the bar with one leg over, with both legs over, with no legs over–just like the big kids!

My curiosity got me to the bar.  But, my ego slammed my face into the thin rubber mat.  Once I found that fine line in between curiosity and ego, I asked for help.  And, I got where I needed to be.

The playground has changed since I was at Spring Valley but that set of bars is still there.  Whenever I walk by, I can’t help but smile and bite my lip with the tooth that I almost lost for good.