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Enter Stage Left

Life: Being with it instead of pushing through it

I performed in many musicals throughout my career as an actor, on Broadway, off Broadway, off off Broadway in theaters all around the country, and the fact of the matter?

I was never much of a dancer.

Always gracefully shoved into the category of “actor who can move well,” I was not only the bane of many a choreographer’s life during rehearsals, I was also pretty much a pain in my own neck as well, I’d become so frustrated.

Though I could deliver a line, sing a song, tell the story just fine, to look as if I belonged onstage with others who were dancing, I always had to work 10 times harder. It’s just never been my gift to pick up dance combinations easily. That’s why I stopped going to chorus calls early on, because each time I auditioned at a cattle call, it was like an unintentional I Love Lucy routine, with no one laughing.

And the main reason for this ever-so-slight fault? A tendency I’ve always had to assess myself harshly, to sit as judge and jury when I’d try to produce movement, to music or otherwise. Sure, during the Age of Disco, I could fling myself around a dance floor, but put me where there were rules, and my brain froze.

Which is also why I could never ever finish an entire yoga class.

During my New York City days, when all my friends were mastering the various asanas, I would last about 20 minutes, and then I’d get dizzy, be in real danger of toppling over, and leave the class, seeking the solace of my water bottle and soft towel. Not to mention aspirin for the headache that always ensued because I’d forget to breathe — not a good idea with any physical exertion.

Before moving to San Francisco, I could never finish one single yoga class. I judged the struggle for perfection as too hard for me.

But now, I write with an inordinate amount of pride, I finally finished one! And in fact have finished four entire yoga classes, living to tell the tale.

In New York City, at the top of my professional game, I never got what yoga was all about, because I was too busy proving myself to the world, and a yoga session was just one more place to be tested. However, because proving oneself is so not the core of yoga, so not the point at all, it took moving to this fair city to finally understand and embody the truth about this ancient practice, and this new, gentler encounter with yoga has essentially changed me, as have so many of the things I’ve discovered in moving here.

By in my uneducated guess, I would say there are more yoga studios here than anywhere else in the entire world. And, call it karma, call it blind good fortune, I stumbled on the one with the class meant for me: Ageless Yoga at the Yoga Garden San Francisco, where “the fire of ashtanga, the attention of Iyengar, and the flowing beauty of vinyasa” make strength, flexibility, balance, well-being, higher consciousness, and peace available to all. Now, don’t get me wrong. I possess none of those things yet. At least I’m pretty sure I don’t.

But, twice a week, I explore the possibilities, as the most gifted, inspiring teacher named Jean Mazzei magically manages to convince me I can do it, even if just a little, and that that little is just the right amount. She has helped me feel suited to this venerable practice because her main message is that the student is fine no matter where the student is in ability; that simple exploration, breathing, observing, allowing is all one need do.

That may be an old message for some, but for me it’s the New World. And in that world, I can do it. I can explore. I can allow myself the breathing journey, and surprise of surprises, my old, show-worn body seems well pleased to go on that journey with me.

Slowly, carefully, doing more breathing, relaxing, and hydrating than I’ve ever done before, this old body is coming along for this new adventure, and I’m very glad.

I’d hate to leave it behind just as I’m beginning to understand a thing or two about how life can be well lived.

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