It was under the spell of this leisurely orientation that I came to perfect the "Art of the Perfect Morning," which involved waking up around 7 am, drinking a cup of green tea, and facilitating a "short form" Ashtanga yoga practice for my fellow co-staffers on the dock overlooking our forrest-framed lake.
Due to the range of experience amongst those who showed up at this early hour (and due to the fact that I wasn't actually hired to teach yoga at camp), I treated this morning practice as a somewhat-guided meditation, in which I was also a participant. If and when there were newbies present, I would walk them through the basics of a sequence (e.g. Sun Salutation A), demonstrate relevant modifications, and then invite them to follow along as I progressed through my own routine (while the yoga vets with their own practices either followed along or did their own thing). During the first few days, I would call out detailed instructions throughout the whole practice; as we began to gel as a group, I found that silence and breath did most of the "teaching."
Anyway, it was a pretty fabulous pre-breakfast ritual.
Did I mention that this was an environmental- and social justice-themed camp centered around an organic farm, with a kitchen staff that prepared three mostly-organic, made-from-scratch meals per day? Yes, we were living the good life, day after day after day.
Until-- one day--
Staff-as-Camper life came to an end.
And Staff-as-Staffer life changed everything.
Counselors-to-Be were suddenly Actual Counselors, and, as such, they were unable to get away from their bunks to meet on the dock before breakfast. (In fact, their workdays were already in full-swing.)
As I was part of a "special ops" Camper Care team tasked with resolving issues of campers having a tough time (for whatever reason, and there were many), I had a bit more flexibility (so to speak) in my mornings. I was still able to practice before my first meeting of the day (at 8:05 a.m.), although I had to relocate from the dock to the theater balcony (with a view of the lake), lest campers see me at the water's edge without a lifeguard present.
In any case-- somewhere between my first and seventh-consecutive, twelve-to-fourteen hour day-- I realized that my morning yoga practice was actually the glue that held my camp life together.
This job was unlike anything I'd ever done before.
Essentially, I was functioning as an "EMT of the spirit"-- and my days were filled with non-stop intensity involving frazzled counselors and staff, concerned parents, and, of course, all manner of disaffected campers who needed the right kind of attention (in exactly the right way at the right time) in order to get themselves back on track to happy camper-hood.
Turns out, this isn't the easiest thing in the world to accomplish.
Not with the campers, not with the parents, not with the counselors, not with the staff.
My entire job depended on my ability to remain calm in any situation, and to communicate clearly and effectively in conditions ranging from "a disturbance in the atmosphere" to "a whirlwind of chaos."
Any behavioral slip-up on my part would result in an escalation of situation, a breach of trust, or-- perhaps worst of all-- a lack of faith in my ability to get the job done.
It's a good thing I knew exactly what I had to do, and how (thanks to my teachers, of course):
I had to practice yoga on my mat each morning, and I had to practice yoga off of my mat, all day long.
All summer long.
And I did.
In fact, I received a great many compliments throughout the summer on my ability to perform this job with grace and skill, and people would come to me whenever they needed a calm person who could get a difficult job done.
Which always made me laugh a little on the inside and think: If only these people had seen me before yoga...
So, there you have it.
If I was an "EMT of the spirit" this summer, yoga was my CPR.
Thanks to my practice on and off the mat, we were all able to breathe a little easier at camp.