Yoga evens you out and strengthens you, but more importantly, meditation (which simply means sitting there and breathing) invites strength and balance to deal with tragedy and pessimism.
So what is the pessimism of the day? Global warming, which threatens our very existence, the unexpected accidental death of an extraordinary person you know, the mass killing of one group by another group which disagrees, the “wrong” person wins an election or a bad law is passed which will hurt people, a chronic health condition — there is a constant parade of threats and negative weights dragging on our psyches and our well being.
Someone once asked a famous actress (I think it was Maureen Stapleton but might be wrong) what her most valuable quality was, and she answered, “Good health.” She could not go on stage every night or film a television series if she were not healthy. Even if you are not the model of good health, a physical activity of some sort regulates digestion, the organs and the nervous system, and helps the muscles stay balanced and strong. And any form of regular balanced exercise removes you for a moment from the world. Further removal through a period of silence helps inject some perspective, slow down impulsive reaction, deepen plans, and add a bit of compassion as you realize how difficult it is to do even simple things (like sitting cross-legged or doing the backstroke) well.
I sat on my mat this morning after a pleasing yoga session on Yogaglo.com, and breathed for a while. Outside, construction crews were banging away, a drill in the next apartment was shrill and grating, dogs barked, and people left for work. The world was going on quite nicely without me. Traces of me don’t have to be everywhere.
My first challenge is to keep myself as strong as possible because without that I can’t perform. My second is to care for those on whom I have some influence. Then, I should be respectful and unintrusive to those around me whom I don’t know well.
The last challenge is expressed so well by the poet Adrienne Rich:
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed.
I have to cast my lot with those who,
age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.
May it be so.