When my father passed away, while I was in exile, I was unable to bid him a final farewell and embrace him one last time.
The mourning process was further complicated by internet malfunctions and the inconsolable cries of my mother and sisters.
As a new mother struggling with postpartum depression, I found solace in dance. I signed up for a group class at the nearest gym and discovered Zumba, a sport filled with passion, music and rhythmic movements that made me feel better.
However, my sense of relief was short-lived.
In November 2019, a massacre occurred, and shortly afterward, the Ukrainian plane was shot down by two IRGC missiles.
Once again, I fell into the deep and dark well of despair, this time with a wounded body and mind that no ointment could heal.
During one of my web surfing sessions, I stumbled upon a short advertisement that read, “Do you have half an hour to spare for yoga every day?” I asked myself, “Do I not have half an hour to spare at home? Perhaps this is what I need, something short, peaceful and fulfilling.”
My request to join the yoga class was approved, and every day at 8 a.m., I would lay my yoga mat next to the large window, facing the sun, and listen intently to the instructors’ voices as they guided me through the poses.
“Place your hands on both sides of your body. Relax your head, neck and shoulders. Firmly press the soles of your feet on the ground and engage the muscles above the knees. Roll your shoulders up, back and down. Close your eyes and bring your hands in front of your chest. Deeply inhale and exhale 10 times while listening to your breath to relax emotionally.”
"Be your Own Wise Friend"
Meditation can mean something different to each person. Some turn to writing to cope with their pain, while others find solace in cleaning or exhilaration.
There are countless ways to deal with a crisis, as many as there are people on this planet. For me, writing about my suffering only reopened the wounds and caused more pain.
Excitement was a mere temporary solution that didn't address the root of the problem. And with the addition of collective grief, like the massacre in Mahshahr or the tragic killing of 176 innocent people, cleaning wasn't an option either.
However, yoga proved to be a transformative experience.
By surrendering myself to the regulated and controlled flow of my breath, I was able to deliver oxygen to the cells of my body and expel the pain from the depths of my soul.
I didn't deny the sorrow, I didn't push it away, I simply helped myself pull through it. Yoga instructors have a wealth of inspiring quotes, but the one that resonates with me most is, "Be your own wise friend."
The trainer emphasized that incorporating yoga into one's daily routine is a challenging task.
However, it becomes even more challenging to maintain this routine "under all circumstances."
Therefore, if one day a yogi feels unable to practice, they should not blame themselves. Instead, they can watch the class or listen to the breathing sounds of others with their eyes closed, allowing the movements and exercises to sit in their muscle memory.
Interestingly, after a year of consistent daily practice, I realized the importance of muscle memory.
Yoga relieved me from shoulder pain caused by holding a colicky baby, and I could practice a shoulder stand.
Yoga can become a vital part of your life that keeps my mind flowing and dynamic, even when everything else seems to be on hold.
Although this is a personal experience, the power of yoga extends to collective experiences, such as its ability to empower those in prison.
Namaste Niloofar and the Sun Salutation
When jailed journalist Niloofar Hamedi told her husband during a phone call that she planned to take on the "30 rounds of sun salutation" challenge, people from all over the world joined her.
Through the philosophy of yoga, she shared the powerful message that, as an honest journalist, she will continue to fight, despite the Iranian government’s repressive and coercitive system.
In doing so, she encouraged all of us who may have felt hopeless and worried, she reminded us that our goal is to master our souls and bodies. Her call to action was a brilliant way of taking care of herself while inspiring others.
Niloofar was not the only prisoner who found solace in yoga, using it as a means to take care of oneself and to communicate a message of struggle from behind prison walls. A research study conducted by Washington State University and published in Science Daily magazine found that some prisons in Europe and America offer group yoga classes to help reduce stress and aggressive behaviors among prisoners.
Why Doing Sun Salutation?
The philosophy of yoga encompasses relaxation, inspiration, motivation, self-care and caring for others.
Even practicing group yoga remotely can create a sense of collective unity. The sun serves as a source of inspiration, light and illumination for the Earth.
Sun salutation is a fundamental movement in yoga that warms up the body for more advanced movements.
It involves a connected cycle that engages all the muscles and joints of the body. After continuous repetition, one may be surprised to realize that everything flows like blood, injecting warmth into cold and tired veins of the body and soul.
Niloofar Hamedi is well-versed in both yoga and the challenging circumstances in which she finds herself. Deprived of the opportunity to see the sun on a daily basis, she brings the sun into her cramped and dark solitary cell through yoga and simple movements.
In yoga, every movement and position has a specific name, and, in the IranWire team's tutorial videos, Elle shows a simple, yet effective technique to maintain balance.
Where you look during yoga sessions is crucial, as your balance is directly impacted by your focus.
We all need a safe and secure place to maintain balance, to persevere and comprehend the current situation. Perhaps Elle's yoga tutorials can serve as the turning point for all of us to keep moving forward.
The reality is that when personal suffering is compounded by collective grief, it can feel like you are lost in a fog.
In order to overcome this haze and find courage in the midst of civil strife, it is vital to love yourself more than ever and be compassionate toward your mind and body.
However, do not forget that struggle is life itself.
Not surprising to see Yoga inflated, once again, while it continues to be laced with cult agendas as well. Next thing you know they live at a commune calling it something else because the world is ugly to them outside of their bubble. Attempt the truth at them and see their ugly self from under their pleasant disguise show. It's called walking on egg shells when it comes to these people. That irregular sound that has an affect on the body where it just isn't healthy what they are doing. I personally am more of a resistance, intelligent backed athlete who believes in proper strength training for longevity. It's called Torodial physics when you break it down, none of which they are knowledgeable in because they say, simply just breathe as if that is the answer. ... read more