Yoga, Remembering Anne Frank & Covid 19
What do Yoga, Holocaust Memorial Day, and Covid19 have in common?
When I read the Diary of Anne Frank, I was struck by a scene in which Anne decides to get on the floor and do some movement exercises. Her pose was similar to a seated yoga boat pose. Today, on the eve of Holo-caust memorial day, I coincidentally taught the same pose to my yoga students over Zoom. I recall that when reading Anne’s diary, that was the part of the book when she became real for me. She was trapped inside and she needed to move. She was a dancer and she understood flexibility and its freedom.
The diary reads:
‘I have a craze for dancing and ballet…and practice dance steps every evening diligently. My stiff limbs are well on the way to becoming supple again like they used to be. One terrific exercise is to sit on the floor, hold a heel in each hand, and then lift both legs up in the air. I have to have a cushion under me, otherwise my poor little behind has a rough time.’ –Anne Frank (January 12, 1944)
When my 90 year old Holocaust survivor yoga student told me she hid in a tiny low ceiling room above a Polish farm house in Poland during the war; I thought to myself, that if I were in hiding, I would spend most of my day doing yoga. I thought if my space were small and limited, I would find a way to move, find a quiet rhyth-mic breath, and imagine myself somewhere with light and expansive space. That same student said her hus-band carried her out of the farmhouse when news of Liberation came. Her legs were too weak to even walk. When she told me this I thought, “Dear G-d, yoga would have saved my legs.”
Now I am in no where near the sad, tragic, and heartbreaking predicaments of Anne Frank and my survivor student; however Covid19 is my first experience of being stuck inside. I may not be stuck all day long, but a lot more than I ever have in my humble little life. Yoga has become a real refuge for me. I am a mover, and a mover can’t sit still all day. Like Anne, I too am a dancer.
So I am writing on this Holocaust memorial day and Covid 19 quarantine, to offer the chance to remember Anne and a chance to find yoga. We are stuck in our homes barely moving, and we have stress that people are getting sick and dying. While Covid deprives us of proper breathing, wouldn’t it make sense to be practicing deep breathing and moving? You could say, “Yeah, but I am a marathon runner, I am a kickboxer, I am a hiker”. But the thing is, yoga you can do anywhere, at any age, and within any limi-tations! You can do your yoga on your chair in the nursing home. Gyms can close down because of Covid19 but no one can take your yoga mat away. You can be deprived of nature outside, but when you awaken your yoga visualization, no one can take away the earth beneath your feet and the feeling of the sun on your face……
When I read Anne Frank’s passage, it was clear to me that this girl understood the love for movement that I felt as a girl… and still do as an adult. There is something about Anne’s story that inspires so many of us to relate to it; whether it was her coming of age reflections, her depth, or the dancer within her. I tell myself that if Anne could find a way to move in the circumstances she found herself, all the more so can I cope with Covid19. I can find a little corner in my room, roll out my yoga mat; and as Anne said, “…find a way for my stiff limbs to become supple again, just like they used to be.”
She was so full of wisdom, that young woman. May her memory be blessed.