Monday, November 09, 2009

blindfold yoga workshop

Ubud is slowly teaching me not to plan and to fully live in the present moment. Back in Dubai, I had my days planned for 3 months ahead minimum. I had an outlook calendar synchronized with my mobiles, beeping even for weekend activities and casual get togethers with friends. Here life is flowing o spontaneously and freely and I am beginning to like it.

I had planned to go to Nusa Lembongan on 4th of November for a few days. Then I learned that Bex, who happens to be one of my most transformative yoga instructors in Ubud was offering a blindfold yoga workshop on the 7th, just a few days before she was leaving for India. I couldn't miss it. In Colcatta, Bex is working with Deepa, a 4-year old blind girl and through Bex's positive energy, persistence, love and kindness, Deepa had showed amazing progress. Deepa is now 4 years old, born to a very poor mother in slums of Colcatta. Her mother had to give her away because she wouldn't be able to keep Deepa alive. So now, Deepa lives in an institution which is for severely handicapped or mentally-challenged children. When Bex started working with her last year, she was even unable to walk and talk. Now she can walk, dance and make some basic sounds. She doesn't understand any language, but can feel and respond to Bex. All that in a frame of a few months...

At 1pm we are in the studio waiting for the workshop to start. Earlier, I caught glimpses of Bex preparing for it and it seems that she had put in a lot of personal effort to it with some photos, music selection, synchronization and the like. She tells us the ground rules while distributing the blindfolds. During the 2.5 hours, no talking and no removing the blindfolds. Even if we need to go to the bathroom, the blindfolds stay on and we will be led by Bex to the toilet. Hmm, I think I would rather hold it...

Of course the workshop also aimed to explore how we use other senses when we don't have sight, which of course provides a great deal of cues when doing asanas.

We do some meditation to start with, followed by some free dancing to warm up and then a bit of partner work. Well, even finding a partner can be difficult without seeing. Bex is very clear when she is explaining the poses, however at times all of us interpret it differently. Normally, I would peek over my shoulder and see what the person next to me is doing and adjust accordingly (which of course is a big no-no) and I have this urge to adjust my blindfold just a bit so that I can take a tiny look... Then I think, what the hell? What if I am doing the pose differently? What if I am not holding my partner exactly like everyone else? As long as we don't let each other fall, we should be ok. In fact, we would be bringing our own expression of the pose which is nothing but beautiful. Even that is a big insight for me.

Then we continue with some individual asanas on the mat. Before each surya namaskara, I would have to feel the top of the mat with my toes so I can align myself. I must have done thousands of suryas, it's interesting that I would still need visual cues to adjust here and there.

Then comes the balancing poses. Though practice, I became quite good at vrksanana, the tree pose. Being able to make good use an external drishti is key for me. The minute I start to gaze around, my tree collapses. How do you find drishti, when all you see is a black blindfold? Do you imagine that you're seeing the floor and pick a point to focus or do you just gaze into this blackness? Of course while trying to figure that out I constantly collapse. It seems like a miracle that blind people can walk on streets with only scanning what's ahead with a stick.

We do a long Yoga Nidra and then some singing in Sanskrit. Time ti time, Bex reads us what she has written about Deepa. It is impossible not to feel their mutual bond. Deepa has improved significantly through Bex's love and kindness and by trusting her unconditionally. Whereas Bex seems to be deeply moved by Deepa's courage and how she hangs onto life with what little she has. This is a bond that changes both parties forever... And also those of us who are lucky to learn about and feel it, although we may never “see” Bex and Deepa together.

At the end of the workshop, we are lead to a corner of the room and asked to kneel down and remove our blindfolds. Even though there is no direct light coming in, after 2.5 hours of complete darkness, the light is too intense when I open my eyes. Intense but in a way also relieving. I notice that we are kneeling down in front of some posters, with photos of Deepa and Bex's narrative about them. I clearly remember one; Deepa on a see-saw for the first time and the joy in her face when she's up in the air. Imagine not seeing, not being able to talk and being lifted up to the air on a narrow piece of wood... What can be quite frightening for some under the circumstances is a source of pure joy for Deepa. This is her courage, this is her strength. Our senses have already been very heightened because of the blindfold and the singing and I cannot help crying in front of that photo. We are often unhappy or not satisfied with our lives. When asked “how are you?”, most of us tend to answer “not bad” which seems to be the norm nowadays. We always have things to complain, we always have excuses, we are always too busy, too occupied with ourselves, always trying to grab a bit more and here is a 4-year old girl who cannot see and cannot speak, living in an institution, purely happy to be on a see-saw for the first time in her life.

Bex and Deepa have touched me in a place and in a way that was too deep. I can only be grateful that I had the opportunity to be touched by them.


  1. I love the part , which you should not check the others: may be you are right , don't compare yourself with others!

    Cheers from istanbul!

  2. Yes, I am figuring out that when you compare yourself with others you always end up being unhappy, one way or the other; Either because you perceive yourself to be worse or less, or because of an inflated ego. Better to go with your own expression of whatever you do. Opens up creativity too :)