Whole Life Magazine

June/July 2015

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42 wholelifetimes.com T he gentle, rolling mountains surrounding the retreat center I visited last year were crisscrossed with inviting nature trails. Just before dinner, they beckoned to me. My walk began on a clearly marked path with a gentle grade. A shower of sunlight poured through the trees. The sweet scent of nature and a deep silence enveloped me. Shortly before 6pm my path branched three ways. Instantly, the steepest one seduced my inner challenger. Muscles raring to go, I eagerly charged up the hill, each step another foot of elevation behind me, until the trail emptied me into a vast clearing at the summit. After relishing the view, I turned to go back, but somehow the trees had rearranged themselves and swallowed my path. Surely if I walked into the woods I'd fi nd a way back. As I began moving forward, anything that looked like a trail faded into more trees. Anything that resembled a marker disappeared on close encounter. Surrounded by a legion of trees, the suppressed dread in me began to unfurl. Where the hell are the trails? It will be dark soon. I'd once heard: "If you stay still in the desert and listen, it'll speak to you." In desperation, I did. The thump of blood pacing with my frantic heart pounded my eardrums. In the silence of nature, my breathing slowed. This quiet made me aware of two facts. First, in the absence of a map, the sun remained my only source of light and orientation. Facing the setting sun meant facing west. Lacking a fl ashlight or cellphone, I shut off my iPod to have it as a light source after dark. Through the silence, a gentle stream also caught my attention. The camp was at a lower altitude. Water travels downward. Now I had a clear plan: face the sun and follow the stream. On the way down, however, I came to an abrupt stop when my path placed me in front of a river too wide to jump over. Panic set in: What a bad way to die. Slow. Alone. Instantly, another voice took over. Stop it! You may have to spend the night in the woods. It'll feel cold. That's all. Now, get moving. I started climbing back up to take advantage of the leftover daylight only to arrive back at the same peak from which I had just descended. In the far distance, a strip of paved road emerged into view. It was now around 8pm. I decided to run for the road. I picked up the pace only to encounter a familiar obstacle. The god-forsaken river stared me in the face. I'm not going back! So, fi nd a way to cross this. By now the sky had turned an unforgiving dark purple. Downstream, a fallen tree appeared to bridge the river. I made feeble attempts to walk over it, hang from it, even crawl over it—none proved stable. All at once, the words of my yoga teacher reverberated in my ear: "Where the eyes go, the body follows." That was it. I straddled the tree and locked my legs. Fixing my gaze forward, I leaned, grasped the tree a few inches ahead, released one leg, stabilized myself with the other, shimmied onward, then quickly locked my legs again. The water rolled below but I did not look down. Inch by inch, I arrived at the other side. The dreadful hike ended around 9pm with a bleeding shoulder, blistered feet and welted skin from insect bites. But I had made it, relying on the strength of my own body and mind. My yoga practice paid off when it mattered most—it saved my life. Yoga didn't just provide physical resilience; it also offered simple wisdom at a time of crisis. We live in a society intently focused on body image. Yet true fi tness means so much more than slim hips or defi ned muscles. It strengthens not just the body, but also the mind, ultimately conditioning us for the unexpected challenges life throws our way. backwords HOW YOGA SAVED MY LIFE By Bahar Anooshahr Lost on a hike, I had to rely on my wits and my practice

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