I was 19. Ballet school was brutal. While they might be nice to your face, the girls were in it to win, and if you showed an ounce of talent, or fortitude, there was fuel against you.
"Only 3 of you are thin enough- Ingrid, Cleo & Elizabeth." The words spoken in Spanish twinged English still ring in my ears today.
This obviously excluded me. So, with the rigors of physically pressing my limits, emotionally handling the teacher I could never please and girls who were full of spite, combined with the juggle of babysitting, a mandatory public speaking class and rehearsals of a ballet that I was afraid I'd be thrown into without having had enough rehearsal time, my body shut down. I got sick. But wouldn't eat. Because I wasn't dancing. Therefore I must not be burning calories. So as fever burnt the pounds off my already thin body, my illness dragged on and on, without nutrients or nourishment to heal.
After 3 weeks I finally recovered. I returned to rehearsals as the lead in a duet, and the understudy for a Paquita solo. "You're looking a little thin," a comment I received, I shrugged off, figuring that maybe I'd be one of the 3, now 4 who were actually thin enough.
Still, Ingrid Cleo & Elizabeth were the only ones thin enough in Claudio's eyes. Yet I danced on, and somehow, practicing from the back of the studio, caught the director's eye, and became the first cast in Paquita, instead of the understudy.
Rehearsing the same ballet day after day, receiving feedback about a sickled foot, or an arm out of place, my mind went into a tailspin. "They're going to take me out of it. I'll never get into the company," were daily thoughts that plagued me, both in rehearsals and out. Bloody blisters or purple toenails were of less concern than whether the -now understudy- would take back her solo from my incapable execution. Any comments, "It looks great, Kathy," or "It's really good." were empty, because they came from other students, and not from the people who mattered.
Anxiety dulled my hunger and pushed away sleep. Any admonitions to "eat more," or "don't lose any more weight," from teachers at the school meant nothing, because they didn't come from those from whom I desired approval oh, so badly.
Until the day my yoga teacher said, "Eat more. Or you're going to die. You have 3 days, or I'm going to do something."
Yoga was my saving grace. It was the place I'd hobble into 3x a week, and walk out of, uncrippled. Body unwound, spirit at peace, once I found yoga, I could go to sleep and wake up to face another physically and emotionally strenuous day without taking it all so seriously.
Yet I had heard his tone of voice. He wasn't kidding. I needed to eat. I didn't know what. Or how.
But I heard someone who was concerned. Someone who really cared. Someone who took the time, not just to make a passing judgment, but to make a phone call to say, hey, this is up. It's got to change.
So, one snack at a time, I journaled my calories into existence. Knowing that I might never fit in with Cleo, Ingrid or Elizabeth, but that I might actually have a life because someone cared, I began to dance for me. Not
for the man who considered me too fat, as the others admonished me
Remaining in a posture and gazing at one's favorite (ishta) icon and
experiencing a feeling of bliss is called “trataka”. It is of two
types, anta and bahi. To gaze at an outside object like an icon is
external trataka. Closing one's eyes and 'imaging' the object
internally and continually focusing attention in between the eyebrows
is the antah(r)trataka or internal gazing. One can practice this
between one to ten minutes.
T. Krishnamacharya, November 18, 1888 – February 28, 1989, is considered the father of modern Yoga.
This is an excerpt of a teaching from Sri Krishnamacharya to his student Srivatsa Ramaswami:
When one starts to learn Yoga, in the beginning the duration of
practice can be as little as 15 to 20 minutes. One can gradually
increase the duration. The teacher should check the breath every day
and then increase the duration of practice. Whatever be the posture,
if one could stay for a long time without the limbs going to sleep (or
numb) or any pain or discomfort then such a practitioner is known as
jitasana (the conqueror/master of an asana.) While staying in an asana
one should not unnecessarily shake the body, bend or contort or move
and if one can stay for hours then such a yogi is a jitasana. We learn
from the works and sayings of yogis that in the olden days the rishis,
every day would remain in any one asana for three hours and do
pranayama and meditation. Then if the yogi is able to remain doing
long inhalation, exhalation and kumbhaka without feeling any kind of
fatigue and for a long period of time such a person would be called
“Jitaprana” or Jitaswasa, or one who has conquered the breath.
A certified transformative coach, yoga therapist, author, + adventurer, Kathy has coached people to happier lives for over 20 years. (Has it really been that long?)