Thursday, May 8, 2014

Yoga for Coping

I typically try to be very faithful to my weekly blog habit (or sometimes, I'll admit - obligation).  When I go off a week, there's usually a good reason, typically because I'm out of town.  These last (almost four!) weeks I've just been damn busy. Days off have been very few, and haven't involved burrowing at home but rather going out and about in this gorgeous city, seeing theatre, family, and friends.  That's part of the joy of spring - it's a hell of a lot easier and more pleasurable to go out in the world and escape the walls of your tiny apartment than in polar vortex weather.

Last week was supposed to house my first day off since Easter - last Thursday.  Instead, I spent last Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday sitting on a case for jury duty.  I don't want to go into any more detail than I have to, because it still hurts my heart to think of it.  Just emailing a friend about it this morning has been enough to send me into a funk today (the dreary overcast sky and the sudden jerking stop after two and a half weeks of go-go-go momentum certainly contributed as well, I'm sure).

On Tuesday morning I was selected as part of the jury for a trial on allegations of child sexual abuse.  There was no physical evidence in the case, as was made clear to us before we were selected.  It was purely he-said-she-said, her word against his.  In this case, the word of a mentally delayed 13-year-old child against a 58-year-old man, who invoked his legal right not to testify on his own behalf.  We only heard from her, the other witnesses called, and both attorneys who were both clearly slumming it.  That's one thing we as a jury all 100% agreed on.  This case was tough, no doubt about it, but the way it was tried by both sides was abysmally bad.  Important questions by both sides were just never asked, too many details remained unexplained, and so many hours were wasted on repeating simple points that frankly didn't really matter when it came to the question of finding this man guilty or not guilty.

The trial lasted a little more than six hours.  The only testimony that honestly mattered worth a damn lasted an hour and a half at most.

We deliberated for over fourteen hours.  Over the course of Wednesday afternoon, all day Thursday, and all day Friday, the twelve of us were in a room together trying to make sense of this case, trying to come to a unanimous decision, and all too often, simply at a loss for what else to say and simply willing the time to pass faster.

We never reached a verdict.    I was one of 10 who firmly, whole-heartedly, repeatedly voted Guilty.  Two firmly, whole-heartedly, repeatedly said Not Guilty.  There were two women who had initially voted Not Guilty and changed their votes, one on Wednesday and then the other by Friday. The judge finally accepted our inability to reach a verdict on Friday afternoon and it was those last few hours of Friday's deliberations that the truth of what it meant for us to be a hung jury hit home.  A lot of us cried.

After the trial I felt physically sick - physically heartbroken.  I felt, and am still feeling, guilty, so confused as to what the purpose of me being on that trial was, horrified that I played a part in a failure of our justice system, and just so, so, so, so sorry for that little girl and her family.

What does any of this have to do with my blog about yoga, you may be asking?  (And WOW, what a departure from the last entry, huh?)

The whole point I wanted to make from this entry is that the yoga has been getting me through it.  I woke up extra early every day before schlepping out to damned Kew Gardens, Queens to make sure I could get in some kind of movement (especially on days we were trapped in the room for hours on end) and my morning meditation practice.  Most mornings I woke up after a horrible night's sleep, my stomach feeling upset, my heart heavy, and my head a bundle of anxiety.  This practice went such a long way toward strengthening my spine, both literally and metaphorically, and allowing me to face the day.

Coming home after, I always tried to do something - a restorative pose or a bath (and yes, a non-yogic amount of wine) to help myself shed as much of the case as I could.

The power that it had in helping me cope was amazing.  I feel like so often yoga teachers only show the brightest, sunniest sides of themselves on social media - for a variety of understandable reasons - and yoga has this reputation of being a cure-all and of guaranteeing a happy, trouble-free life.  Like it's some kind of protective bubble.  It's an amazing thing, but nothing can completely protect a person from whatever trials life is determined to throw at you.  Just like you can be a Christian but still have a bad day and not live up to the ideals you strive to live up to, you can be a yogi and have shitty days where you just can't help but see the bad in the world.  It's just part of life.

These days, yoga is as much a business as it is a practice, and it's easy to merge and confuse the two.  I make my living teaching yoga, and marketing what I do is a part of my livelihood.  I'm not saying that I lie or would promote something I didn't believe in, but because my job for the most part makes me incredibly happy, I put forth that positivity, that happiness, the occasional party-trick pose.  It's just as easy for me to forget that just because I'm a yogi doesn't protect me or my family from the fact that sometimes shit happens.  The real power of yoga is not just that it makes you happy or even cheers you up - it's an unbelievable tool for coping.  For getting through.  For feeling the fear, the remorse, the shit, and breathing through it.  Until you get to the next day, the next, and the next.

The day after the trial, I immediately jumped back into my work and slowly but surely, started feeling better after each subsequent class I taught.  I started the day sobbing on my co-worker and friend's shoulder and ended it quietly content, feeling rewarded for having reconnected with my students.  I can't undo what was done last week, as much as I want to more than anything.  But thankfully my job allows me to help make life a little less stressful and a little easier to cope with for others - and reminds me to do the same thing for myself.

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