The Yoga Bubble

I’ve been told I live in a “yoga bubble.” I spend more time at my yoga home than my dwelling home. It’s literally where I work, eat and sleep (ok, not really; maybe the occasional drifting off in savasana). Safe to say I’m surrounded by yogis in most aspects of my life.

We’re often challenged to live our practice off our mats – that what we experience on our mats is to show us the way in life. How many times in class are you asked to “notice”, “feel” or “listen?” We’re asked to listen to our bodies, our minds, our hearts. We’re asked to feel, to share that with others, journal about it or simply sit with it.

We’re asked to recognize the balance of strength and flexibility, and how this manifests in a particular asana or any life situation. We’re asked to be curious, mindful, compassionate and empathetic; with ourselves and others.

I’ve been practicing yoga for over 25 years, but it’s really been in these past 4 years since I partnered with a dear friend to open a studio that I’ve learned what “Living Your Yoga” truly means.

I had the privilege of meeting Judith Lassater author of “Living Your Yoga” and numerous other texts at the Accessible Yoga Conference in October. Timing was everything.

The Accessible Yoga Conference draws an international crowd of people committed to helping more people find access to the practice of yoga. I was scheduled to present in October with my son, Sean, who has severe cerebral palsy and is the inspiration for our Adaptive Yoga program at Yoga Home. Sean and I had presented at the Philadelphia Conference on Developmental Disabilities in May, and he was so proud to share his love of yoga with others. While Sean is non-verbal, he used assistive technology to advance my slides and stole the show as my demo student as he came into postures.

And then life took an unexpected turn.

Sean passed away in August.

When tragedy struck me personally, this is when I saw the power of yoga.

My partner took over the business and let me do what I needed to do – grieve. Our team of teachers and staff were generous with their time, their energy and love. Students from our studio reached out in numerous ways; Sean had been a big part of our studio community, so they were feeling the loss too.

But it wasn’t just in our studio where the impact was felt and people responded. Accessible yoga friends from across the world sent virtual healing. Other Studio Owners reached out with everything from condolences to offers to help run the studio. This meant so much to me – while it’s easy to say we approach the business of yoga from a place of abundance and not competition, this was seeing it in action.

I initially thought I would pass on presenting at the Accessible Yoga Conference. I could say my head said “Don’t go!” but being a vulnerable yogi, I’ll put it all out there. My head said “Are you crazy?? Your son just died, you have no idea if it’s in your capacity to hold it together for five minutes, let alone present to a crowd. Sean won’t be by your side, which means no demo student. Everyone will understand if you back out.” But my heart said, “Go. You’ll figure it out. You’ll ground, breathe and be present as best you can.”

It was really hard, but also heart-warming and part of my healing journey.

At the studio, I’ve grown accustomed to people asking me how I am, the hugs, the understanding if I’m teary-eyed. I’m used to people talking about Sean, using his name, sharing a memory. For me, this is part of the healing process.

That “yoga bubble” I spoke about? It’s more that I notice when it’s NOT there. It feels challenging when people don’t acknowledge Sean, act as if nothing has happened. And yet I understand. As a society, we struggle with grief. People don’t want to upset me, “say the wrong thing” or “make me think of Sean if I’m not.” I’m still getting reaction from a commentary I wrote about my experience, published in the Inquirer, It Only Takes a Moment to Acknowledge Someone’s Grief. As I say often these days, I know I’m not alone in dealing with grief. If this is part of our shared humanity, why are we so challenged to talk about it?

My wish? To see the yoga bubble burst. It either means more people coming into the bubble, or the bubble busting wide open and infiltrating all beings.

I envision a society where we all feel loved, nourished, and cared for. It also means we’ll be held accountable to live in integrity, to communicate openly and be present. It’s not always easy. But I believe, it’s a path that connects and heals. It’s the path I’m on. How about you?

Kerri Hanlon is co-founder and creator of the Adaptive Yoga Program at Yoga Home in Conshohocken, a Best of Philly Yoga Studio.  She is a contributor to CBSPhilly and shares her experiences about living with and grieving a child with disabilities so others know they’re not alone.  Her practices are available through Yoga Home’s online studio.

Leave a Reply

Get Your Downdog On!

Join our mailing list and you'll receive regular updates and special news about yoga and wellness in the Greater Chicago Area.

You have Successfully Subscribed!