Sunday, September 11, 2011

What were you doing on 9/11, 2001?

Many of us remember exactly what we were doing the day of the 9/11 attacks.

I had just entered the yoga room where I was teaching my Tuesday 10am Gentle Yoga Class at the Ann Arbor YMCA, and one of my students said she had heard that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers.   I envisioned a small private plane that had gone astray, and thought it was tragic for the plane occupants, but I didn't think much more about it during class.   After class, while still at the YMCA, I found out it had been a commercial plane, and it had probably been a terrorist attack.   While I was shocked and dismayed, I still didn't realize the enormity of that event.

It was only when I returned home that the pieces started coming together.  One of the towers had already collapsed, my husband said, and another plane had crashed in PA.  And the bad news kept on coming in.  I remember sitting down, feeling bombarded by the ongoing horrible news, and not being able to stop crying for a long time.   Of course all of us were shocked and saddened that day and for a long time afterward.    

One of the senior Iyengar Yoga teachers (I don't remember who) wrote to B.K.S. Iyengar, asking how best to teach yoga classes to help those who had been directly or indirectly affected by the attacks.   We were all affected to some level.   Iyengar sent out a sequence which was rapidly dispersed and practiced throughout the U.S.

It was a restorative sequence that was developed to help depression and post traumatic stress syndrome, if I remember correctly.   Unfortunately I can't find the sequence now, but I do remember that B.K.S. Iyengar suggested that many people would benefit more from an eyes-open Savasana and in other quiet poses, especially those who were near ground zero and the other attacks.   Keeping the eyes open feels safer to many people, and we want our students to feel emotionally safe in their practice.   For some people when they close their eyes, all of the terrible visions that they've seen on television, or first hand, come rushing back.  With eyes open, they can see the immediate world around them, and be reassured that they are safe in the present moment.

Many of us taught this sequence, with some variations, for the next week or two, partly to help our own students deal with the stress of this horrible situation, but I think also partly in solidarity with yoga students near ground zero who experienced this tragedy first hand.

I hope on this 10 anniversary of the 9/11 attacks you are all feeling healthy and safe, and enjoying the company of people who are near and dear to you.

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