No matter where I am, my yoga practice connects me back to myself and to the world that I am part of. I literally think of going to yoga as ‘getting quiet’ – which of course relates to my last post on meditation.
So a few weeks ago it took me by surprise when I attended a series of new classes and found myself getting more and more agitated. Between poses called ‘flying freedom dove’ and being exhorted to let my sigh as loudly as possible – I could feel my shoulders crunching up towards my ears in protest. And yet I also noticed that the people around me were unperturbed – so what was up? Why couldn’t I internalize one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my practice – that everything is temporary?
It came to me while walking home from teaching a yoga class last week. It was a warm evening and since we can’t yet count on them in this corner of the world, everyone was out on the streets. Middle aged couples shuffled by in flip-flops, arms linked in comfortable silence. Laughter from patios crammed with their former selves punctuated the serenity. If there was a word for the night, I’d use relief – the ability to finally let one’s arms swing freely after a long winter.
Taking my time, I caught myself sighing audibly. Immediately recognizing the inconsistency, I had to laugh. And then it there it was. It’s not that I disagree with ‘letting go of what doesn’t serve you’ or ‘taking time to care for your self instead of always putting others first’ – it’s that right now, most of the time when I step on to my yoga mat I feel fine (dare I even say good!). Searching my mind for what isn’t going well or trying to imagine worries that I can drip down my spine creates the perverse situation where I am looking for disturbances. I am being asked to manufacture a moment of release.
I’ve definitely been in classes where something a teacher said really resonated with me that day. But i realize now that it’s equally likely that the person next to me was thinking, ‘Right. I guess I’ll let the fact that I forgot to pay my phone bill today drip down my spine’. More commonly, I’ve come to unprompted realizations during my practice that have helped me to understand myself better.
I think that the simple truth is this: none of us can know what another is thinking without (at least) asking. That means that while some people some people are revelling in a room that sounds like a bunch of lawnmowers, others are cringing on the inside. If you’ve tried yoga before and it ‘wasn’t for you’, this is good news – it means that if you try a few teachers and places you may very well find a different style that works for you. The benefits are so numerous that I encourage you to try. And if you practice regularly and want to work on relaxing through discomfort – go to a class that drives you crazy – and don’t let it!
The teacher I did my yoga training with, Vijay, didn’t pepper us with motivational thoughts, but he did say something in every Hatha class that I think is worth repeating (and that I suspect I’ve written here before), so I’ll end with it:
“Be a better person. God is love, if you believe it. This world is not for fighting, but for loving one another.”
How can you argue with that?