My little 4'11" mom is a warrior. I have seen her power her voluptuous round Mexican body through step, spinning and kickboxing classes, smiling sweating from every pore on her shin, face, and arms my whole life struggling with weight. She has done every diet--Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Adkins, South Beach and she is the video queen. At home she has tackled The Firm, The Firm with weights, Reebok, and Karen Voight. She would grab me and Jazzercise, Zumba, and dance me around our kitchen. There was even a stint of her jogging.
She is a flirt and a beauty. She never went out of the house without make-up and would look at my tomboy face, "Zonia, put on some lipstick."
"Bleh, I would say. I just wanted to be outside planting flowers--in the crawl space in the mud.
A new video--a new exercise. Yoga. I never clung to any of her weight or beauty obsessions but this one...set in Nature with the deep soothing voice of Rodney Yee...that sparked something in my 14 year old mind that never went away. It was at the end of my drug and alcohol high school phase and after a near death experience. It changed me. It changed everything.
Until I began teaching high school at 20, I went to work with an acupuncturist, chiropractor, herbalist with an in house massage therapist . They taught me yoga of the spirit. To my biblical missionary life, I now added wholistic health, diet, energy, meditation...and I craved more. I wanted the physical aspect. My dear mentor only said to me and his son, "Make sure it's what you want. Your whole life will become a prayer. The asanas are very powerful," he warned. Neither his son nor I were afraid.
We went to yoga like moths to the flame. Ashtanga. Hatha. Bikram. Vinyasa. Yin. Iyengar. Anusara.
I moved to Tahoe to teach. I meet Jason. We are both high school teachers.
I have a brain tumor and am on the way out of a being a Jehovah's Witness, a choice that will cost me a lifetime of friends. I am praying.
Jason and I fall into sharing the spirit of practice. Never have we met another person who loves yoga the way that we do. We do yoga 6-8 hours at a time. David Swenson is our teacher. We finish yoga practice. We start again.
It wasn't popular. There is no Facebook. There are no photos.
Jason is my first glimpse of the spiritual on the outside of a religion that taught me everything out there is separated from God. God only exists in here, we are told. Evil lurks around every corner, but there is no denying...Jason loves God. So do I. We are the same, but also so different. We go our separate ways.
I crash snowboarding, get tired of having a tumor, leave my religion and go to Hawaii to heal my spine, tumor, heart, and life.
I cry for vision. I see God everywhere and in everyone.
I walk 12 hours a day. Hike Kalalau three times. Sleep on beaches. Trust the direction guiding me is love.
My tumor comes out of my nose. I go back to Tahoe. Teach at schools. Wreck my car. Tear my thigh and abdominal muscles. Start over in yoga. Lay on the mat crying in pain as my dear friend and teacher Shaelah Morris lays warm hands on my pain. I don't quit. I start from the inside. I build my body back up. My spirit is strong. Yoga guides me.
Five years have passed.
Doing sun salutations to the sun rising. There are no pictures. Jason is in Tahoe. We are friends. We are both teaching yoga. It has taken us. We have left schools and entered yoga rooms. We are each other's greatest ally.
Yoga is beginning to be popular. Our families still don't understand. We are each other's closest, strongest ally. We can see and experience how much we have both changed.
You are not crazy. Don't quit.
My sweet mom gets breast cancer. I return home to pray, care for her, teach her meditation. The house is a sanctuary of hope. I pray to heal our cancer lineage.
Yoga. I have a vision.
I go to Hawaii. I meet Ken.
We travel tipi, both ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, we face our greatest fears together. Unplant seeds in our mind. Learn about our ancestry. I heal the breast cancer lineage for women in my line. Accept my medicine.
There are no pictures...well a few, taken by a 12-year old at a retreat. There is a lot of heart. There is no money, only prayer, trust, love, and good friends. There is yoga, fasting, vision quests and long, long walks. We build and run sweat lodges and bring together people as family. There are no pictures of these. There are no cameras.
Jason and I are in Maui, the Ananda Yoga Sanctuary. We teach yoga for free and support it with other work driving around the island. There are a few pictures....not many. Facebook is popular. I activate and deactivate with regularity. Craving the real.
We go to India. We teach kids on a mountain top. Do healing work with families. Teach yoga to those who knock on the door. We did not come to teach but to learn. We are teaching. There are no pictures....well, one with all the kids. It wasn't a photo op. It wasn't for public. It just happened.
Years keep passing. Yoga keeps happening. We both keep teaching, practicing, and learning.
I teach and travel to California, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Texas, Arizona, Florida, and Mexico. I am told to make a website. I gather pictures from a few people who take them.
As usual, there are no pictures of my students or of me teaching...I am...well, I am teaching.
Jason returns from Thailand where he has been doing teacher trainings.
Let's start a school.
Live True, he says, like our life.
All people can ask for are pictures.
We need pictures.
I send a couple.
Who took these?
My four year old cousin.
Really, Zonia? Really?
Ha ha. Yes, really. When she finished she said, "Now let's go live." Ha ha. Just my sentiments, we ran up a mountain.
Zonia, just take pictures.
Take a few. Get bored. Change focus.
This is my family.
This is art.
This is Nature.
This the White Sands desert where I am from, minus the best parts....snow angels and rolling down hills. We are playing so...there are no pictures.
This is me and my friends in the rain and at the river, I start taking pictures of them.
Try again to take pictures. My friend's farm burns down. A friend and teacher die. I pause again.
What are we doing?
Out here...it isn't about me. It's about being in the moment. It's about connection. My favorite moments are not in pictures. They are the moments before and after. Long hugs. Moments spread out over time. The whole sky, land and water, not just the frame. It's multi-sensory. The breeze. The sound of the water rushing. Rain drops falling on rooftops. The smell of rose and cedar. Fire crackling.
It's about prayer. It's about healing. It's about God and it's been happening since I was born. It's been happening to all of us and, this yoga....it is life.
How do I capture it without losing it? The internal experience. This journey, the powerful practice of presence...the way this yoga has become a life prayer just like I was told it would.
In another photo of me in warrior, camel or wheel? Bleh...
Just take a few pictures during personal practice for Instagram.
Take some in class.
Who will I ask to refrain from class?
I am singing...a photo cannot capture sound.
Who will I awaken to prompt, this is me adjusting, helping people connect to their bodies, explore their joints, know themselves?
Take a picture?
I dust them with sage.
It's real...it's not posed.
I look at my dear friend's photos--they are beautiful.
Use Jason's, I say.
Jason says, "Zonia, now it looks about me and it's not. Take pictures."
It's ok, I say. It's ok.
Two non-competitive people who hardly use computers, love yoga, serving others, God, and Nature wish to share their yogic life journey and must now somehow compete through social media which is image driven. I don't even own a camera.
Overwhelmed. Ha ha. On the computer. Making websites.
Resisting. Let's go grassroots, I say, travel to people, places.
Just try. We will get a social media guru.
What if this doesn't work?
It will, have faith.
Besides, no matter what, there will still be yoga.
We will still be living true to ourselves.
We will still be friends. It's been almost 20 years.
Take pictures, Zonia.
I look at yoga photos. Handstands. Sculpted. Abundant. Young. I clap and smile. Gorgeous. Gold's Gym. Social media geniuses. They help each other take photos. It's easy for them. They love it. I love them. I see it shouldn't be hard and that it can actually be fun. I join my heart to their smiles. Resistance softening. Open to someone who can capture my internal experience of yoga.
Zonia, take pictures.
Two white butterflies swirl in front of a lava rock wall with a vine climbing. Three pelicans circle the sky. Waves crash. Birds sing. My room is quiet. One table. One yoga mat. A bed.
I just finished teaching a class with 20 students.
There are no pictures.
And...no one is here to capture me writing with a pen in my journal, praying, practicing, but it's happening.
It's all happening now.....and now....and again now.
Zonia? Blog, please.
Yes, my Love.
Is anyone reading, feeling, understanding my heart, my prayer for us all?
Cannot give up living, experiencing for an image unless it happens naturally, authentically. And no image can substitute for the experience of being where you are when you are there with the people you are near.
I look at posed pictures and laugh when I see my face. Ha ha. A deer in the headlights. I am way more lighthearted than this. I am my mother dancing to music in the kitchen. I remember my mom. She is beautiful....and strong. A cancer survivor. Hair grey. In tennis. Now an artist. Covered in paint. No make-up.
How does it feel to give up beauty?
We laugh until we cry because even I am surprised I have asked her this question.
Finally she says, "It's nice, Mija. It's so nice."