SUP!

 From left to right: Yoga sisters Annie Shiel, Anne Samit & Juliana Bonilla

From left to right: Yoga sisters Annie Shiel, Anne Samit & Juliana Bonilla

Say yes, say yes, say yes. ~ Say Yes, Langhorne Slim

I was having an ordinary day as part of an ordinary weekend as part of an ordinary week.

For me, it’s the ordinary that’s extraordinary. I find it calming. With a good bit of anxiety behind me, the ordinary provides precious equanimity. That’s why I adore my regular schedule, because it’s so easy to flow when I know where to go.  

I have one yoga instructor who requests at the end of each practice that we be grateful for what most might say is ordinary. After a rigorous practice, she asks us to put our hands in prayer and be thankful for the ability to move on the mat and even for the clarity of our minds.

So several times a week, I put my hands on my heart and recognize the extraordinary in the ordinary.

It just so happened that on this ordinary day I received a group text from a fellow yogi. She wanted to know if we’d like to go down to the river early the next morning for Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP).

For the others on the text, SUP was not extraordinary. For them it was an ordinary way to start any day.  

I hesitated. My weekend was pretty much mapped out with practice plans and dinner plans and more. Plus, I’d never done anything like this before! But, oh, how I’d always wanted to try, and time was almost up. Summer’s end was nigh.

I consider these friends my yogi sisters. They know me from the mat. They think I’m brave!

You’ll be fine, Anne!

Okay, let’s do this, I wrote back. I’m in!

That night, I arrived home from a late dinner and laid out everything for the next day. An outfit for the paddle board. My mat and towel for a practice to follow. Another outfit, in case I went overboard, and another towel for that, too. I added to the pile some cash, a credit card and my license, and then I made a mental note to look for the sports bra that had gone missing.

When I finally went to sleep, it was only for a few hours. I awoke in the middle of the night to a tumultuous current of maybe’s. Maybe I was a little nervous? Maybe I ate too late? Maybe I should cancel?

I turned on the light to turn off my mind and got up to fold some laundry, a therapeutic endeavor no matter the time. I rolled up my mat and spotted my missing sports bra! All that and some tea seemed to settle me, and I climbed back in bed and closed my eyes as the waters calmed for the rest of the night.

And when the morning came, I gave myself no time to think. I popped up and grabbed some coffee and put my many things in the car. My saying yes to this outing was so emphatic that I arrived 20 minutes early!

It was a beautiful morning and the river was calm. I put my bag over my shoulder and walked to the boathouse. Lots of people were strolling around and some were even riding bikes. Everyone seemed to share in a secret called Sunday Morning At The Water, and I sat down at a picnic table to wait for my friends. A message from the universe blasted through the outdoor speakers with the lyrics of a song,

Say yes, say yes, say yes!

I looked up to see my friends arrive, one on a bike and the other on foot, their experience apparent in how lightly they traveled. I placed my bag on the ground to make room for them to sit down. And then we signed our lives away on some forms.

We stuffed my stuff in a locker, put on some life jackets and walked down to the pier. A young man served up the boards, and my friends hopped on, paddling away on their knees before standing up.

I told this young man that I’d not done this before, and he showed me how to tie the leash to my ankle. I hopped on my board, balancing on my knees, and he told me which way my paddle should face. I awaited more instructions, but apparently that was all he had to give. So I paddled out to meet the others who had made their way under a bridge.

That spot is your center of gravity, Anne, said one friend. She pointed to the center of my board, and I stood up!

Keep your arms straight when you paddle, said the other. And now use more of your core.

I was thrilled to be upright and still dry, and I happily paddled in circles under the bridge.

There’s an island up there, one said. We could go that way!

Wait! We were going somewhere? I looked up the river and saw three rocky islands, The Three Sisters.

There is an extraordinary tale of three Native American sisters who crossed the river late one night, leaving their tribe on one side for another on the other. But they never made it over. Halfway there, they drowned, and legend has it that their spirits emerged from the water as three barren, rocky islands.

That’s where my friends wanted to go! It’s the deepest part of the river, and most locals know about the tumultuous currents hidden below the deceptively peaceful surface of the water.

But none of that was on my mind this morning.

We paddled up the river, our oars slicing the smooth surface of the water on either side of our boards, first on the left and then on the right. We flowed along with ease, chatting amiably and gliding quietly. Sometimes, one of us moved forward; other times, another fell back. We traveled with a comfortable camaraderie formed from so much shared time on our yoga mats.

I felt buoyant on my board, and I recognized this feeling. It was the same as the one I have when I’m lifted in my practice.

When I practice, my spirit emerges like those of the sisters from the water. On my mat, I am adventurous and daring and ready and able. And that’s the person who formed these friendships. That’s the person who was paddling this morning as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.

I was starting this day as part of three sisters connected by something born at yoga. It was that collective energy created by the practice that lifts us up and ties us together and accompanies us wherever we go.

It’s what enables us to float, and so of course we brought it with us to the water. We carried it here without any effort at all. And it helped us flow safely up the river and back, the same as it does for us on our mats.