To picture this story, you need to know a bit about my house. My home yoga studio has one wall of glass that faces behind my house. About 20 feet from the house, there is a stone wall at the bottom of a small incline, which is a garden. At the top of the incline the ground is flat and marks the entrance to a beautiful old growth pine forest.
On a Sunday afternoon in February, when there were still several feet of snow, I had just begun my yoga practice, facing the woods. As I moved from my first dog pose into uttanasana (forward fold), I looked up and saw a large human-like creature standing in a round crater on the incline in the snow facing me. I stared, taking in the impressive size, the seemingly painted facial features, the deep brown eyes. This striking creature, it dawned on me slowly, was an owl, standing silently, watching. I kept still, not wanting the visit from Owl to end.
In a few minutes, Owl flew to a tree branch close enough to the house for me to see it and it me. Owl sat there, and, with some hesitation, I resumed my practice. Each time I looked up, Owl was there. It was as if it was there to participate in the practice, to witness, perhaps to bless. I was enveloped by Owl’s powerful and calm presence. That presence changed the space, bringing together what was inside the glass wall and what was outside. We shared that space for my whole practice. When I emerged from savasana, my practice complete, Owl had vanished.
For weeks afterward, I tried to understand why the owl was there. My scientific mind could easily conclude that the owl’s presence had nothing to do with me or my yoga practice. Although it is unusual to see owls during the day, this was a barred owl, sometimes seen in daylight. According to the local paper, there were more in the area this year and, because of the large amount of snow, they were finding it difficult to locate food. So the owl may simply have been hunting. Having figured out in the first moments that I, though small, was not quite small enough, the owl hung out in the tree looking for more appropriate fare. For an hour!
Then, a few weeks ago, in mid-May, I was teaching a morning Anusara-inspired class in my home studio. Just as we were coming out of tree pose facing the woods, a student saw an owl, perched in the same tree as Owl had in February. The power of its presence was immediate, palpable. It didn’t stay long—perhaps 10 minutes—but it changed our experience. We all felt enveloped by something magical, a presence that was there, it seemed, to honor us and our practice.
I no longer try to explain these visits from Owl. Instead, I am awed by them and deeply grateful. I am grateful also that our yoga practice helped us to soften, to open and to receive the power and beauty of this amazing bird. Its presence served as an affirmation of our practice, our connection to nature, and ourselves.