The day after 36-year-old MacArthur Harrell was killed in a drive-by shooting, his distraught mother, Daphne Ivory, knew she needed a therapeutic outlet to help her deal with the tragedy. She credits Vinyasa yoga with helping her find solace and stay centered.
“I went to yoga because I didn’t know where else to go. I didn’t know what to do with my feelings,” says Daphne, 53, a long-time resident and native of Cleveland, where she works as a Housing Authority sustainability coordinator. “I put MacArthur’s photo on my yoga mat because this was my new norm; I had to learn to live without my oldest son.”
MacArthur—a single father who had just gained custody of his six children and secured an apartment that would accommodate his entire family—was fatally shot by an unidentified gunman at a Cleveland gas station on July 9, 2015.
“I keep a photo of him living and one [of him] in his casket, because that’s the reality I live with,” says Daphne. “He is not here. As much as I would like for him to be, it’s just final.”
Daphne was first introduced to yoga three years ago by a friend as a way to cope with her mother’s failing health and subsequent death.
“I had tried a lot of other types of mentally calming things like going to church, counseling, self-help books, and talking to my friends,” she says. “Yoga seemed like it would work because I didn’t see anything else working.”
Daphne soon discovered that yoga had its advantages.
“I lost a couple of inches. It was fun. I met a lot of nice people, and I just kept going,” she explains. “One thing about yoga that I found to be calming was that you could be in a room full of people, but you didn’t have to say anything. That was comforting because I wasn’t alone, but I was alone—just able to focus on the [yoga] movements and really enjoy the practice.”
Seeing Past the Pain
“When my son was gunned down, that made me have to put everything in front of me,” Daphne recalls. “It tried every belief system I had ever known. I was going, ‘Where is God? Where is Jesus? Where is Buddha? Where is Confucius? Where are all the spiritualists? Where are my friends?’”
“Even though my friends were there, I was lost and alone. It was indescribable. With my son being dead, I had to learn how to live my life a day at a time, which is extremely hard. But yoga made me go inside of myself to find all the answers. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but you actually have to do something different. Yoga allowed me to focus and be able to act. Yoga made me have to stop and search my own strengths and weaknesses, and it brought both of those things to light: emotional pain and joy. Everything came to the surface, where I had to stop and take a look at it. Yoga was like a mirror for me….I’ve had to learn how to relate to this person, who was standing in front of me. I had to learn how to live with her, so to speak.”
A Healing Regimen
“I practice yoga every day” says Daphne. “I practice alone, in nature and in a class, because yoga is not a destination. It literally is a practice. It’s something that you do, and it’s strictly for you. It’s not for anyone else. The more you do, the better you get. The physical fitness through yoga is actually a by-product of the emotional calmness and the focus you gain just by listening to your instructor, listening to your body, listening to the breathing, paying attention to yourself, going inward to get the power that you need, and yet having a power greater than yourself, even focusing in on the God that you serve. You know, whatever is greater than you. All of this focus is necessary just to be able to put one foot in front of the other.
“Even just two or five minutes of yoga in the morning can make all the difference. You can do a walking yoga, or simply stand still somewhere. There’s this one pose that’s called Tadasana. It is the foundation, of all the poses; you stand straight with your feet planted on the ground, and your hands are either by your side or over your head. Just being able to stand up, that’s a yoga pose. Stand tall, with the ground beneath you and the sky above you. And that’s it. Some days that’s all I can do is stand up, and that’s okay.”
Getting Started With Yoga
“I would recommend that you go to your local beginner’s class. Just go. And recognize everybody is practicing. Don’t be afraid. Leave your ego at the door, because there will always be someone who can do a pose that you can’t do.”
“Remember: Everyone is not in the room for the same reasons. Some people really want to be the ‘yoga model.’ But, that’s not everybody’s goal. Some people are there because they just want to get their head together. Some people are there because they had a physical injury. Go in with your own purpose in mind. Go in with an open mind. Listen to your instructor and listen to your body. And, don’t stop going because you aren’t able to touch your toes. None of the beginners could when they first got there. And after a while, they got a little bit better and a little bit better and a little bit better. And, no, you don’t have to go every day. Just go.”
Read more at Huffington Post.