Sunday Blog: Bed Bugs Made Me Do It

I don’t have bed bugs, but one of my clients recently brought them into the non-profit where I coordinate yoga and other recreational programs for older people. A known hoarder, this adult had lain across our blankets and bolsters for therapeutic yoga. An hour later, a social worker ran into the office to report bugs on the client’s clothing.

My first thought was about the props. The second was that this lovely, vulnerable client had violated my personal safety. I knew I was being unreasonable. Yet my jaw clenched when I thought of her and the risk she brought to me and my private life.

The administration suggested a professional treatment to the affected rooms, including the studio. As an extra precaution, my boss and I agreed to throw out the yoga supplies. I understood, but felt devastated when I learned we would not be replacing blankets and bolsters—two items that helped my older clients rest and breathe.

It wasn’t just my ego that was bruised. I felt as gutted as the prop cabinet, with its doors swinging open.

Four years ago, I had convinced my boss that props were essential for our clients who were 60 and better. Because they had a difficult time lying on the floor, these frail and stiff clients would benefit from their support. Each time a student thanked me for a blissful experience on the props, I felt my seratonin levels rise. When I saw clients stretched out in chairs on on their mats, I grew maternal.

Now with this loss to my program, my inhalations came in jagged spurts, like I was crying without tears. I knew I needed help. So I emailed my yoga teacher friend for a private lesson. Just making the appointment calmed me, especially when I considered my short commute to her apartment, just across the street from mine. This friend was a respected Iyengar teacher, part of my rich ecosystem. But, in a city lousy with yoga instructors, I somehow thought I wasn’t worthy of healing, especially if I wasn’t part of the giving.

When I told my next-door neighbor that I had scheduled a private session, he said, “Aren’t you exaggerating?”

“There were bed bugs,” I said, refraining from telling him off. “At work. Everything is ruined.”

He let me know I was talking too loud and fast, despite a quick session of meditation and a glass of wine.

“Isn’t a private yoga class like a doctor going to another doctor?”

“Exactly,” I said. “I need it.” I didn't tell him I'd never done it before.

When I arrived for my session, my instructor friend talked me into baddha konasana, with a strap supporting each hip and knee. She mirrored me with her own set of straps. Between us lay a whole slew of props, each stacked in orderly stations in the room. When she coaxed me to lean against the wall, I admitted it had been there all along. With relief, I let myself accept the solid surface. With deep breaths and gratitude, I dropped into the rich tradition of healing that surrounded me, even when I wasn’t acting as teacher.

—Ann Votaw

Click here to read more of Ann Votaw’s work.

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