When I first began teaching in Maya Tulum, there was a woman who just about always came late. The first time she did, I opened the door just a little annoyed, found her a space in front, almost diagonally facing the class and went back to teaching. Through the class I noticed she was almost following but was adding her own interpretation to my directions. For example, when I would tell people to hold adho mukha svasana, downward facing dog, she would start off in down dog but then move into childs pose or lift her legs to stretch a little deeper. Or if we were in tadasana, mountain pose, she would rarely stand still, she would move her head side to side, roll her shoulders, fold forward. In tree pose, vrksasana, she would stand with both feet on the ground and drop her head to one side and then the other. There were classes when I would ask myself, “Why is this woman coming to my class? She does whatever she wants.”
But I never asked her because it would be rude. And little by little, I began loving having her there. Loree became my student. We built lives in Tulum together separately, if you know what I mean. After awhile, I started looking to the door 5 or 10 minutes after class began to see if she was coming. And, arriving late, she was always in front. I would look to her to see how her body reacted to my classes. Then in savasana I could help her finish the adjustments, pulling her legs to help relax the hips and lower back or massaging her neck or face. It was how we met, really. I finally just had to talk to this woman.
We became the very best of friends. Mostly because she would do whatever she wanted in my classes and she would do it consistently. She came to nearly all my classes. She did not disrupt or disturb others, she simply made things work best for herself. Even to the clothes she wore. She wore yoga clothes for sure, but I noticed when I would massage her neck, the nice lacey bra, or the flowery headband she put to make the outfit just her’s. I respected her for it because that is what yoga is all about: finding what works for you and moving respectfully away from things that don’t.
Loree died suddenly in May this year. She had a heart attack at 48 years old. I was devastated, along with about half of Tulum. She had such a beautiful and independent spirit. In my grief, however, I found one thing that gave me comfort: I began dedicating my practices to her. In my heart, it freed me. When I take a class with someone else, dedicated to Loree, it reminds me to respect where I am on that day. If my shoulders are tight, I roll them back in tadasana. If my back is sore, I come through cat cow before sitting back in childs pose, balasana. In each and every posture, if I need something different, I remember to modify to make it that much more for me. And when I teach a class that I dedicate to Loree, I remind my students to do the same: find what makes you feel good within the constraints of the pose, respecting alignment and technique, find what works for you within your ability.
And since yoga is a metaphor for life, I am letting Loree inspire me off the mat. I am reminding myself to find a life that works for me while I respect balance and alignment. That way, when I go, I will have practiced my way. Look into your own life, and find your very own Loree. A person who inspires you to find the balance to your life that makes it uniquely yours. Find that place, regardless of what everyone else is doing.