If you’ve been reading this blog then you will know that it is in large part due to my cousin, Ben, that this Year of Yoga project exists.
In my first post , I wrote how it was a walk around Berkeley with Ben that inspired the idea of going to a new studio each week of the year and writing about it.
As you also know, the project took another turn when I discovered InnerStellar, and I haven’t been to or written about many other studios since then. The truth is, I was a little reluctant to go outside my comfort zone.
However, a few weeks ago, I finally worked myself out of my rut and went to Adeline Yoga. This was again thanks to Ben. You see, when he was here for the summer, he signed up to take classes at Adeline Yoga. Then, when he left Berkeley, he converted his last class to a gift certificate. So, armed with my bright red envelope, I tried out my first true Iyengar class with the lovely, knowledgable, and truly charming Anneke Faas.
I immediately felt comfortable and welcomed by Anneke. Yes, we’d met before (she’s a friend of my sister’s), so I got a big hello hug. But she was that welcoming to every student, making sure she knew – really knew – everyone’s name. After checking in with me, she turned to the woman next to me and said, “You’ve been here before.”
The woman said, “Well, it was about a year ago.”
“Yep,” said Anneke. “You’re hyper-flexible, right?”
After Anneke moved on, the woman said to me, “I can’t believe she remembered me! I really was only in here the one time!”
But Anneke isn’t just a friendly face. She knows her stuff, and has a wonderfully specific yet gracious teaching style.
Here’s just one small example: She had us do baddha konasana with legs up the wall, and focus the entire time on the feeling of rotating our inner thighs up and out, while also rotating our outer thighs in and under. Then, with that very specific muscle memory, she moved us – and our knees! – safely into warrior poses.
I took not just that lesson and several other bits of yogic wisdom from the class, but also a very basic delight at having spent time with Anneke.
A few days after this, I got an email from Ben. We haven’t heard much from him since he left (he’s busy, we’re busy) so his email felt oddly coincidental coming so soon after my Adeline class. He wrote that he’s carried “two Californianisms” with him from his summer with us, one of which being that he’s joined an Iyengar yoga studio back home, and has been practicing twice a week. He wrote, “I’ve decided that Iyengar is basically yoga for nerdy teachers’ pets who want to do everything exactly ‘right.’ Me, in other words.”
His note got me thinking about what I’ve carried away from having him here with us.
For one thing, our coffee is better. Ben measured out the coffee grounds exactly each morning when filling the press pot. Like he said, he’s a nerd. We’re nerds, too, but he’s a scientist nerd. And coffee, made scientifically, i.e., actually measured, tastes consistently better. Not too strong. Not too weak. Just right.
He also brought all the things a younger generation will bring: new music, new sayings, a fresh way of looking at the world. You might think having a not-quite-thirty-year-old in the house would make us middle-aged folks feel old, but I think we really felt younger. Maybe it was just that having a third adult in the house tilted the adult-to-kid ratio in our favor. Oh my. How can that not give you more energy?
But the truth is, we benefited from having Ben here in more than just these little ways. For example, Matt went out to several open mic nights to play his music, in part (I think) because Ben was there to cheer him on. Then, this fall, Matt finally did the Indiegogo campaign he’s wanted to do for so long, and produced the album of his new songs.
And what I’ve come to understand is that Ben, in a certain sense, also inspired this Year of Yoga project way before he took one step in Berkeley.
You see, when I first read on Facebook that he had gotten an internship in the Bay Area and was looking for a place to rent, I felt protective of my cousin. Rental rates in San Francisco are outrageous, and way too scary for a employed person, much less a graduate student. My immediate thought was that he had to stay with us.
My second thought, however, was one of fear.
You see, I am a true introvert. Here’s my proof: My biggest worry, when I went away to college, was not the transition from a tiny town to an enormous campus, or that the classes would be too hard, or that I wouldn’t make friends. No. My monster worry had to do with sharing a dorm room with another person. It made me anxious all that summer. And I never did get much better about the idea of roommates.
But now here was Ben, needing a place to stay.
Ben is my “littlest” cousin, the youngest of my mother’s youngest sister, so there’s a good sixteen years between us. A whole generation, really, and an entire continent, too, as he grew up on the east coast and I on the west. In his three decades of life, I’d probably only seen him a total of two weeks.
He was family, of course. I’d been to his wedding, and seen him at his brother’s wedding and our other cousin’s wedding. I knew he was funny and smart and very much the gentleman. As far as roommates go, I was pretty certain he would be great. And I loved the idea of having my kids get to know their cousin. But still. It wasn’t like Ben and I knew each other that well.
The introvert in me came up with all kinds of excuses for why it wasn’t a good idea to let him stay with us. Ours is a small, somewhat shabby house (that’s what eight years of rent control will get you). The room we could offer him was poorly built and very close to a backyard of early-rising, noisy chickens. We are parents, and we don’t always parent perfectly (i.e., we sometimes yell at our kids, and we sometimes spoil them). Neatness, to put it mildly, does not come naturally to my kids (or me). So yes, I was a little afraid of being judged, and I had a lot of anxiety over letting someone stay with us, even a grown-up little cousin.
While it didn’t take us more than a minute to offer Ben a place, it did take a small dose of courage for me to overcome the introverted habits of mine and all their attendant anxieties.
But here’s what I think. I think that leap of faith that we took in opening our home to Ben – sharing our home life, despite all its vulnerabilities and imperfections – somehow translated into the courage to take other leaps, leaps of creativity and self-actualization. That’s really what creativity is, after all, a leap of faith that launches us out of habits and fears and into the world, a leap of faith predicated on the belief that what we have to offer is, in the end, a good thing.