Ten years ago, I was working on a feature for the Paralympic Games that took me to the National Abilities Center in Utah. The NAC is a center where elite athletes with disability go to train. I can’t explain how I felt that day, except to say that as I entered through those open doors, something resonated deep inside, I knew, without a doubt, I was where I should be. My friend who was by my side said years later, that she saw it in me at that moment too, a connection, something greater being revealed, like a light switch being turned on. For me, it was momentous.
I’ve done a ton of work with athletes with disability in my career as a sports television producer. Wheelchair tennis players, the Paralympic Games, sled hockey tournaments, mono-skiers, racers competing in the Hawaiian Ironman on two prosthetic legs - you name it, I’ve covered it. And every time I produce a feature on a disabled athlete, I’m moved not only to a place of inspiration but to a feeling of coming home.
For many years following that encounter at the NAC, I dreamed of starting “Team Challenge”, a foundation for people with disability to find the greatness of their spirit through sport. And I was frustrated at my lack of ability to get it off the ground. I wasn’t immersed enough in the culture of the physically challenged world to really have it come together. So for years, I did nothing to move me toward my goal.
Then I found yoga.
Instantly, I knew this was where I belonged. And much like a National Abilities Center, a yoga studio is a place for people to come and physically challenge themselves, and in doing so, find their inner expression, their inner voice, heal their brokenness and allow their spirit to shine through. I fulfilled my dream of creating a center where people can come to engage themselves deeply on every level when I opened up my yoga studio only ten months after first stepping onto my mat.
Then, shortly after opening the doors at Ananda, I read a book called “Waking” by Matthew Sanford. Matt is a paraplegic yoga teacher. Confined to a wheelchair since a car accident at the age of fourteen, he found, through yoga, a way to engage a deeper mind-body union that allowed him to become whole in a different way. A few months after reading this moving memoir, I found myself at a three-day workshop he was teaching in Pennsylvania. As I sat in front of him that first night, there was a familiar feeling rising up inside of me. It was the exact same feeling I had years before when I crossed the threshold at the NAC. I knew, absolutely, that I was meant to be there. It stoked a fire inside me. Marguerite was beside me that evening and she saw it too. It was palpable.
Later that Spring, I studied with Matthew in an intensive at the Yoga Journal Conference in New York City. While hundreds of yogis were on the other side of the wall, in sold-out workshops with popular names such as, Desiree Rumbaugh, Seane Corne and Rodney Yee, I sat in a room with only 18 others, learning the beginnings of how to teach students with physical challenges by more subtly feeling the yoga in my own body first. I was starting to learn to teach adaptive yoga. I wasn’t even a trained teacher yet, but I knew that I was on the right path.
Now, it’s coming full circle for me.
Tonight, I mailed my check out to register for a training with Matthew, this Fall, at his studio in Minnesota. It’s called “Adapting Yoga for Disability Level I”. And now that I am a teacher and we’ve moved to a new studio that is wheelchair accessible, we can begin holding classes for challenged yogis. It’s an opportunity to bring healing; mind, body and spirit to our community. And isn’t that what yoga does for all who roll out their mat, whether we do it from two working legs or from a chair?
When you speak your desire out to the Universe, when you listen closely, and trust the response you hear deep down inside, when you believe in the compass that is your heart, and you keep moving toward what feels right…the path opens before you. Trust that.
I know, right now, I’m where I should be – my heart undoubtedly tells me so. It’s a visceral response that I feel deep in my gut. It’s crystal clear and it tells me I’m in the right place. It tells me I’m pointed in the right direction. It tells me I’m on the right path. And even though I may not be able to see where this path will end up, it tells my restless heart that it will all be as it should…as long as I continue to accept the invitation to just keep walking.
Janice Molinari is the owner of Ananda Yoga - 22 Speedwell Ave. Morristown, NJ www.anandayoganj.com