By Jennifer Miller
I am greeted by the Director of the Recovery House as I walk in. She gives me the “heads up” that a new girl will be joining the class and might be a challenge. I thank her and am soon swept up in the activity of children, babies and moms all bustling about.
I brought some props to help the pregnant women with some of the poses. The group has been difficult to mentor and teach because the girls are in such varied conditions and states: pregnant, postpartum and mothers with newborn and very young babies. As usual the returnees are chatty and excited to see me.
The “new girl” is sitting on the couch and does not join the other girls whose mats are set up and ready to start. She looks emaciated, with bad and rotted teeth, acne, and sickly. I look into her eyes, which are the windows to her soul, and when I smile I see her respond.
I ask gently: ”Would like to join us?” She gets up slowly, and with a startlingly sunken chest, drags herself to her mat.
We start off with Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation), where I demonstrate what the movement and breathing look like. The other girls are very accepting of her, and the group’s collective excitement and humor once again unfolds. I feel grateful to know that I might make a difference in there lives.
The ladies always have medical questions during the class. One pregnant girl has placenta previa, which, I tell her, I had with the birth of my second son. I reassure her that her baby has every chance to be born healthy. She is very heart-centered and I tell her to think thoughts of love and have confidence that all will be well.
I am quickly asked if flax-seed will make a recently pregnant woman’s stomach flat. “I wish it was that easy…”. I share with everyone the benefits of my health shake, and will bring copies of the recipe next week.
Moving through more poses, I can see the new girl is a natural yogini, with good flexibility and form. She tells me that her mom is a yoga teacher and was constantly telling her that yoga would help her get off her heroin habit. I am stunned as she opens up about her drug addictions but must refocus the group on the yoga practice.
The topic of mindfulness comes up as one of the girls tells the group that she often feels dizzy and sick during yoga. I explain to everyone the importance of a mind-body connection, where we must listen to and nurture our bodies. She reflects briefly and then states that she smokes, eats poorly and has been abusing her body for years.
This is so often the case with not only addicts, but many of us who do not nourish and take care of our bodies. The topic of the moon and a woman’s cycle comes up. I tell them that ideally we would want to menstruate during a “new moon”, as it is a time to go inward and truly nurture ourselves. We need to listen to our souls and ask: ”What do I need right now?”. By listening, we will have fewer hormonal difficulties.
In centuries past, the new moon was a time when women connected, helping to “lift the burdens of life” off one another’s shoulders. This communal gathering allowed for a replenishment and revitalization of souls and spirits.
Today, we still must listen and slow down in order to honor ourselves. The full moon is a time to celebrate and rejoice our womanhood. I told them the first step is to recognize when there are moon days. I will bring them a moon calendar so they have awareness, which is always the first step of our journey. .
At the end of the class, while preparing for meditation, the new girl says she feels so much better and really liked it. I feel so grateful that my own journey has brought me to a place that I can be with women who have been in jail, on the streets, and are in the depths of heavy drug abuse and feel completely connected! Life has given me a great gift, and although it has been a tough journey that has involved addictions with my sons, I have grown as a woman and can now share the gift.
My oldest son is coming up on 3 years of sobriety on Oct. 1 and I am so PROUD! It was difficult to see anything positive coming from the pain I had for him, but I can now see how special this experience has been. He has become an incredible young man. Thank you, son, for this journey, and for the fact that I can be here for these women.
Namaste, Jennifer Miller