A blog post by Mary Moscarello. Photos by Mary Moscarello. Banner image by https://www.shutterstock.com/g/skumer

Malala Yousafzai graduated from Oxford University this year and in honor of that massive achievement, the staunch advocate for educating girls and women world-wide penned an article in Vanity Fair.

I managed to read through only the first few paragraphs of her article before I had to stop and stare at the line leading into the fourth. In those first three graphs, she’d set up how her final semester went, looking back through the thick and obstacle-weight heavy veil of COVID-19. I smiled as I read through the brief and relatable list of things that she missed out on doing while attending school in one of the world’s most prestigious learning centers. Drinking tea in cafes and photographing gardens, quaint and sweet and somehow very innocent from someone who survived being shot by the Taliban for her views on equal opportunity education for girls.

Then she wrote, “this felt like such a loss because education is so much more than a reading list or syllabus…”

How very true.

Taken during my early yoga days. Yes that’s Bongo’s tail in the shot.

College life experiences – swept away by the threat of a deadly virus – teach too. For many, higher education provides a first taste of independence. Responsibility for getting up for class on time, turning in work worthy of the high cost of education at a college or university level or choosing to avoid the fraternity kegger lies with the students themselves.

Life experiences in general teach us about ourselves and how we handle things. Yousafszai reminds us that the classroom is one of many places where learning happens and by no means the only one. In full agreement, I add that allowing everyday life experiences to teach us takes some work on our part.   

How well we’re able to hear those lessons can depend on how we observe our own body. Body awareness is one of the first hurdles for a new yogi to summit and leap over. I call it a hurdle, because there’s that leap when you finally tune in to the body – and I use the word “summit’ as a verb – because the leap comes after time spent trekking up the summit of that hurdle.

Once body awareness enters the perception, sustaining it when in a particular asana or not, it serves as a valuable antenna – helping us tune in to how we respond to a situation. 

We can be unaware of how a situation is manifesting, or becoming tangible in the body. Aches and pains that pop up from nowhere can often get traced back to stress. Think of the last time you were really sad about something. I will go out on a limb and admit that the last time I felt really sad, I FELT it in my bones. Can you relate? 

As humans, we inherited a capacity within to be numb. How it arrives, whether by self-defense numbing or self-imposed numbing – both are possible and real.  

I’m hard-pressed to think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to be able to notice the shifts of tension as we respond and react to various situations in our daily lives ESPECIALLY DURING A PANDEMIC. Can you come up with one?

The very act of having a qualified teacher guide a person through a series of positions, with focus on the breath and direction to observe sensation begins a journey to body awareness unlike any other I’ve been on. I’ve run half marathons, competed in sprint level distance triathlon, had my share of self-medicating lapses of judgement and soul searching blips of visitation into self-help methods. Nothing has ever opened the doorway to my own Self in the same way yoga has.

There’s a free workshop being offered by a studio where I teach – I’m coming up on my first anniversary of teaching there, so it has a special place in my yogi heart. The workshop is meant for beginners so you can really get a good foundation. The studio owner is offering this in a sincere hope that she will help people – you can take it from me. 

I heartily encourage you to take advantage – you won’t be sorry, just give it a chance.