Two Yoginis

A journey of yoga, friendship, and transformation


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Old Coaches Can Surely Tell

There is so much to say about the lessons I learned from my Grandpa Jim. He was a vibrant, loving grandfather, who I am grateful I had the chance to know. He was the head the Chafey family, who successfully raised seven children, and was happily married to his beloved, my Grandma Joan. My grandpa passed away last September at ninety-three; peacefully, at home, and on his own terms. Saturday morning, I woke up and immediately thought of him. I have been processing his loss and allowing myself to mourn through my practice on the yoga mat.

Hiking in San Diego remembering Grandpa

Hiking in San Diego remembering Grandpa

A few weeks ago, Ali wrote about our first session with Jonathan FitzGordan. Jonathan was introduced to the group as our anatomy teacher. After getting to know Jonathan, I would also call him a “walking” expert and a role model for teaching. Last night, at teacher training, he taught us another way to open up the body and release emotional and physical pain.

Throughout this session, Jonathan repeatedly mentioned (a tactic he encouraged us to do) the psoas major muscle and its importance to all yoga poses. As we learned in our first session, the psoas major holds trauma and stress in the body. Jonathan suggested that we could feel a great release from certain psoas-focused exercises and from proper alignment when standing and walking.

Another statement Jonathan repeated (read: teaching tactic in action) was that we did not have to believe anything he was saying. With excitement, he encouraged each of us to learn by experimenting and discerning whether an idea resonated with us. Then and only then would be able to trust him and his teachings. Each time he gave us a new piece of information or asked us to try a physical pose, I would decide if I believed what he was saying. Each time, I did feel the effect, and, therefore, trust Jonathan as an expert.

We practiced a small round of a psoas release called constructive rest position. This position is meant to allow the psoas and back body muscles release and let go. Something about this experience, brought up the memory of my Grandpa Jim, another great teacher. I woke up with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and happiness mixed together. I could feel my sorrow release, physically and emotionally.

My Grandpa taught me that there is always a solution. He could fix anything, and left me with the knowing that there is always a way. He loved to travel. He loved to observe people and places. For my college graduation, he bought me a set of luggage. I think of him every time I go to check that bag and head off on an adventure. Most of all, my Grandpa taught me that family and sharing love is most important and when there are bumps in the road and you fall down, get back up and try again. What I love about repetition is that the words become ingrained in the mind. At any moment, I can close my eyes and hear my grandfathers voice: “thank you for the love we share together.”

One of Grandpa's many hat's

One of Grandpa’s many hat’s

Coaching the Ballgame by Jim Chafey, Sr., March 2011

Just keep on swinging,
No matter your age.
Life’s joys will stay with you.
You’re at the top of the gauge.

When the fast-balls come at you,
Don’t step out of the box.
Just swing even harder,
Hit the ball right over the rocks.

Sometimes the game may be very easy,
Sometimes it may be hard, that is true,
But, just keep right on swinging,
And the win may come to you.

There is joy to be found in every game,
And each player can search for that joy.
All the coaches cannot do it for you,
Then, you self-learn that your game is quite real, not a toy.

In time, the coaching grows silent,
For your games are playing quite well,
And now there are new young games,
The formerly coached are now coaching young winners.
Old coaches can surely tell.


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Healing on the Mat

As my mind quiets, and emotion begins to pulse through my body, I can feel the tears well. I am sitting cross-legged on my yoga mat, and I can hear the sounds of the harmonium filling the room. The voice of one my favorite teachers cracks open my heart and yet in this space I feel a boundless shield of protection. I am both vulnerable and safe, as I allow myself to grieve.

On My Mat at Yogamaya

On My Mat at Yogamaya

While studying at The University of Vermont, I had the opportunity to learn from experts in death and dying. We learned about the five stages of grief, as hypothesized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. The five stages (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance) explain how individuals deal with significant loss.

In the past year, I experienced multiple losses. While mourning the loss of my grandfather, our family also had to say goodbye to our nine year-old family dog, George. I found myself returning to the mat again and again to manage and process my overwhelming grief. Yogamaya became my place to release these difficult emotions and work through the five stages. I became aware of the duality inherent in grieving – some stages being incredibly painful, while others beautifully awake and invigorating.

I experienced these emotions, consciously, within the confines of my practice, which created space in my physical body that allowed emotions to flow. Sometimes it would happen standing folded over my legs, while other days as I relaxed into Savasana (final resting pose). The energy of sadness would arise and tears would stream quietly onto my mat.

This week, my family unveiled a bench near the dog run in Madison Square Park, with a plaque reading: “In Memory of Our Beloved Dog George.” A few days later we brought home our new 8-week-old puppy, Lucy.

The Bench at Madison Square Park

The Bench at Madison Square Park

Even as we welcome our new puppy, I know I am still in the acceptance stage with regard to George. There are days it seems impossible that he is no longer waiting for me when I walk into my parent’s apartment. Other days, I feel a sense of peace, because I know he’s still with us (helping Lucy learn the ropes of being a Belkin).

Lucy Belkin

Lucy Belkin

Whether on your yoga mat or someplace else, it’s important to honor the complex emotional process of grieving. Be open, find an outlet, and allow yourself the space and time to heal.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Email us or leave a comment.

Lucy loves to hear a story

Lucy loves to hear a story