This year, I will have the privilege of teaching and practicing at the Seacoast Yoga Mala for the sixth year in a row. Just days away from this powerful event, I find myself vacillating between thoughts of excitement and dread.
Yesterday, a classmate asked me, Do you like doing the yoga mala?
Good question. This year, we will complete our seventh mala on the Seacoast.
The inaugural mala was held less than a week after my son was born. I intended to attend, but greatly underestimated the exhaustion I’d feel just six days post-partum with my second child. Three hours of yoga, 108 salutes to the sun, it was a little more than I was ready to undertake at that time.
When I joined my fellow yogis in its second year I knew a mala was do-able. By my peers. By real yogis in my community. It was a real event completed by real people who walked the same streets as I.
My nervous sweating started just after I awoke that morning. I don’t know from down dog. I am trained in a discipline thousands of miles from Puna, India from whence Adho Mukha Svanasana originated. Vinyasa, flow, dogs and salutes that are so common in so many American yoga disciplines are not a part of my lineage. I knew I could do a few salutes in class, but could I do 108?
But really, do I like the Yoga Mala? I don’t. I love it.
Nah, I don’t mean I take joy in each inhale breath. I don’t mean I walk through the fundraising with a joyful heart and gratitude that I can ask others to dig into their pockets for an event that uses vocabulary most people outside of a long-term yoga practice don’t even understand. I don’t like when the teacher tells us we can “Rest in Down Dog.” I don’t like the stinky nervous sweat I get waiting for my turn on the podium.
It is uncomfortable to solicit people for money, even though its for a great cause. I don’t like missing Sunday family day. I don’t look forward to the toil of a three-hour yoga class. 108 sun salutes are not something you do for fun. It isn’t like getting a massage. It doesn’t taste like chocolate. It feels exhausting. And hard. And sometimes a little bit boring.
I love the Yoga Mala because of what it is and what it does.
The Yoga Mala is the one time that all of the myriad of yoga studios on the Seacoast get together to use the yoga we love to help the community we love. I love to stand on my mat with more than a hundred yogis from over a dozen disciplines and twenty different studios and lift our arms up in service to others.
I love to see all of my yoga friends each year at the biggest yoga event in our community. Some of these yoga friends I see every week on the mat, some a few times a year, some I see only on this day. We are bonded together forever by our love of yoga and our dedication to our community; we are bound by the intensity of the experience that is the mala. When we see each other inside this room and out, we know a place in ourselves that is truly the same as the other. We have been there. We know.
I love the opportunity to challenge myself physically to do something that, even six years in, I still wonder if I can do. I love to test my mental strength to stay focused, to be present, to keep going even when I don’t want to anymore. I love the opportunity to struggle so that others may struggle less.
I love how I feel when its over. Hungry, a little shaky in the deltoids and kind of tired, but also exhilarated, satisfied, powerful and proud.
I love the power of our community. We started out by raising $5,000 and increased that to ten. Doubled it to twenty and last year raised nearly $60,000 to help our neighbors in need. That is the force of our yoga community. Those dollars didn’t come from corporate sponsors. Most of those dollars came in fives, tens and twenties from friends and families and studios and neighbors. Together we have the power to make a serious impact.
We have the power to give our neighbors $18,000 of fuel oil in the budget-sparse, but still cold, March season. We have the power to fully fund Seacoast Eat Local’s amazing SNAP program at Seacoast Farmers markets that includes a matching program that makes food stamp dollars stretch farther on local, healthy foods. We have the power to fund free yoga classes all over the Seacoast with specially-trained yoga teachers for at-risk youth, individuals with cancer, veterans, families in transition, and victims of sexual abuse and trauma.
By coming together, we make a major impact on the quality of life in our communities.
By challenging ourselves, we help others to face the challenge of the battle of life with a margin more ease.
By facing ourselves and our fears and our misgivings and our challenges, we forge a better, stronger, more resilient and in-tune human being, the type of person who is an asset to their community and their relationships.
What’s not to love?
Sara Curry is a certified Bikram Method yoga teacher and owner of Bikram Yoga Portsmouth and Vice President of Seacoast Area Teachers of Yoga in Action. If you would like to support this incredible community movement, visit the Seacoast Yoga Mala page and get involved today!