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I just want my 90 minutes of peace. No amount of awkward sequencing, whisper-like “yoga voice”, or intrusive personality can take that away from me.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST JESSICA LESLEY
I have been asked by friends, “What was the worst yoga class you have ever been to?”
My response is that I have never been to a bad yoga class. Have there been teachers that were not my cup of tea, music selections that made me scratch my head, or verbal cues that made me contain my giggles – sure! But I did not show up to be entertained or befriended.
Eighty percent of a sadhana is showing up
Most days I show up because my thoughts are racing and I just want 90 minutes of peace. When my aunt passed away after years of drug abuse my lunch hour yoga class helped me get through the day at work. When my insecurities get the best of me and I pick fights with the people who love me, my evening classes help me put things in perspective. No amount of awkward sequencing, whisper-like “yoga voice”, or intrusive personality can take that away from me.
Of course, I have my favorite teachers and tend to frequent their class over others. What I find interesting is when one of my favorites has to be away and the class is being taught by a sub. What is normally a packed house can easily turn into an empty room or maybe two or three yogis. I make sure to go to classes even when I know there is going to be a sub and am always slightly disappointed by those who pass up their regular practice because a teacher is not there.
Reclaiming a sense of normal life
So often we can slip away from the core of what brought us to the mat.
Knowing that yoga has helped me go through some dark and stressful times is where my frustration with expectations about how a class has to be comes in. As a teacher I begin to think about who is coming into the room and what they may be going through.
Intuition can only take you so far, of course we can tell that our student may not be feeling well, we notice temperament and body language, but this is hardly an indicator of the depth of what is going on in a persons life. You cannot tell by simply looking at the bodies in front of you who is going through a divorce, who just got fired, who is caring for a sick parent. These are all very real situations that more than likely are showing up to our classes.
Having some time to slow down our breath and quiet the mental chatter may be just what we need to reclaim some sense of normal in our lives. If we truly stand by the claim that yoga changes our lives (as so many yoga teacher bios say) then favorite teacher or teacher substitute, we should be there.
Let go of expectations – enjoy a good class every time
I am not above this behavior. I too have shown up to class decked out in hundreds of dollars worth of yoga apparel and accessories to claim my place in the front row of class. I carefully place my expensive mala beads on the front of my mat to prepare for practice. I must admit I do enjoy some of the ritual involved of simply getting ready to leave the house for yoga.
When that familiar ritual is thrown off by arriving to MY studio to practice with MY teacher, and she or he unexpectedly isn’t there it seems to me this is where my practice begins. When the front row is full, the practice begins. For the most part I accept this change and happily lay my mat wherever there is space, politely introduce myself to the substitute instructor and enjoy MY 90 minutes of peace.
If you think about it, being put momentarily off balance by something we didn’t expect isn’t so different than being off balance in a posture. Expectations lay traps for us.
Developing focus that keeps me in the Now all day
When I’m off balance in a posture I always seem to find a way to do some fine tuning, engaging my core, shifting the weight into my heels, or whatever subtle changes are needed. (Sometimes after a few face plants!) When we fall out of a pose we have the option of beating ourselves up for not being perfect, blaming an outside source like the teacher or the woman next to us in class.
We can also decide that a pose is simply not right for our practice, or observe where subtle changes can be made to find the full expression of the posture without falling the next time we try. In class I like to prep the room by advising that balancing postures tend to have very little to do with our physical ability to stand on one leg, or bear weight on our arms.
Many of us are already strong enough: the challenge of balancing comes in being present enough to let go of non-productive thoughts and focus exclusively on the Now.
Super sweet and super smart, Jessica is quadruple certified in yoga and in fitness! Trained in anatomy, asana and positive practice, she’s experienced in supporting her students as they get present to their challenges with compassion and courage. When you visit her website jessicalesley.com be sure to read her surprising and powerful personal journey. Watch for Jessica’s adventures in teaching column monthly in The Magazine of Yoga!
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.