For two years, up until the middle of 2014, I was pretty devoted to a self-led ashtanga morning practice. At my height I was practicing 5 days a week. I travelled with my yoga mat. After I lost my dad, I liked to say, yoga was my church.
And over the course of the last shitty year, my practice got away from me. Circumstances conspired – shoulder injury, upheaval, homelessness, travel.
Then last week in Istanbul, in our 2 star hotel lobby, in a conservative part of the city, a little old hijabed lady came and sat next to me on the leather sofa and discreetly prayed. She didn’t do everything – she remained seated and stood a few times, but did not get on the floor – but she found the time for her faith, in that moment of inconvenience and travel.
I remembered then when I lived in Jordan – where I saw so many people take time to practice their faith despite modern life. Taxi drivers praying in the shade of their cab in on the side of the road, the Fitness First gym which had special prayer clothes for women you could borrow from a basket, so while other women changed post-Spin, some prayed, right there, in the locker room.
I remembered then, my devotion to my practice through inconvenience and travel. How I practiced alone, with no teacher in Jordan for four months. The rug burn from practicing without a mat on a hotel carpet in Seattle, gawked at while I practiced poolside in Dubai, the hidden practices in my bedroom in the compound in Islamabad, where I used the AC to get the room down to a bearable 35 degrees. The one pathetic practice on that work trip to Ethiopia, before I became to ill and overworked to continue.
And I remember waking with the call to prayer in Amman at 5am and occasionally, getting up to practice to what was, very often, the most beautiful sound in the world.
This morning, after almost 8 months without a solid practice, I unrolled my mat and breathed for 5, 10, 20 breaths. And I did a sun salutation.
Hard part’s over, I thought.