The Sound of Yoga by Erin Verhoef 4/17/24

The Sound of Yoga by Erin Verhoef 4/17/24


Back when screens had rabbit ear antennae and were limited to 5 channels, a commercial laden version of The Sound of Music would air on TV once a year. In my childhood desperation to fully absorb all music, I learned the soundtrack by heart. There’s a scene early in the film in which the aspiring nun, Maria, is sent away from the monastery to work as a governess in a mansion. She pauses as she leaves the abbey and says, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” With the ensuing song, she swirls her guitar and suitcase around she belts out “I Have Confidence.” The flurry of threshold emotions in this moment always made my heart swell. A free spirit, too whimsical for the rigor of spiritual seclusion, Maria was banished to the outside world.

Throughout life, we find ourselves at threshold moments over and over. No matter what happiness or stability we pursue, everything is in constant flux. I always thought of Maria’s ‘door closing, window opening’ line as a reference to the push-pull relationship between her banishment and her need to escape. There’s an airy spaciousness to the shift. What is freedom? What is responsibility? What is the balance between the two—and with everything else?

The first time I came to the Himalayan Institute’s stately mansion on Delaware was for a class on breath and relaxation taught by Rolf Sovik. I heard the teachings, looked at the arc of the diaphragm muscle drawn on the dry erase board; but I was not yet convinced that what I was seeking was inside or that it could somehow be clarified by following the breath. That took some time.

Over the years, I returned to the Institute for classes and casually began to question what was possible in working with the body. I was cautious about being in a group movement class. In school, I regularly skipped gym to avoid this. I needed a place where I didn’t feel that I had to perform or be on display, a place of comfort. Up until this point, the body was a thing to be erased or denied, in favor of the intellect. I still used it for musical resonance, but it wasn’t completely trustworthy.

Each time I passed through the threshold entrance of HIB, the sense of self-intrigue grew more compelling. Bringing attention to the body was mysteriously creating ease and trust simultaneously. Each teacher, volunteer, and fellow student felt like a companion traveler earnestly embracing wonder. The domed diaphragm muscle that Rolf had presented in that first class began to evolve into an inner abbey, a place of communion and refuge.

Regular practice soon became essential and eventually led to teacher training and teaching. Realization and maturation on this path seem to arrive as the breeze through an open window, sometimes softly, sometimes surging. No matter the individual process, the Buffalo community is richly blessed by the presence of HIB, whose servants and structure generously create space for freedom, responsibility and grace. My heart swells with boundless gratitude, far deeper than any showtune could convey.

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