My yoga journey has been 13 (gasp!) years so far, and I could write for pages about every class, every teacher and every lesson. All those years ago, a very dear friend told me, “You should just come with me, see if you like it. The teacher is young and fun and you’ll feel SO good after class!” Well, why not? I was coming through a difficult time in my heart and mind and decided it couldn’t hurt. Wow, was THAT an understatement! I have learned SO many things along the way. So many more things than I expected. So many more than I can list here. Yes, now I can do a headstand and some arm balances (yay, me!), but more importantly to me, I am also learning to look more inside myself, on and off the mat. I can now (usually) identify what’s really wrong when I feel off – why am I sad? Angry? Hurt? Is there anything to be done about it? No? Well, then just name it, sit with it and watch it go by. That is a lifelong practice for me, but it’s getting easier, thanks to all the words of wisdom from my many amazing yoga teachers. I am learning to really breathe. And to notice how it really does (I swear) make situations easier, even if it’s not a “good” situation. I tell people that I learn something new every time I go to class – and that’s true. Something about myself, something about the world, so many lessons. Hearing a simple statement, or a complex reading…or floating in savasana…I take something away every time I unroll my mat.
For the first 11 or so years of my practice I would only practice hot power yoga. “I can’t practice if it’s not hot.” “The kind of yoga I do is POWER yoga – it’s HARD, it’s not RELAXING” – as if that were somehow “better” yoga. After a while I found that classes were almost becoming competitive for me…with my classmates and myself. The more advanced my practice became, the larger my yoga ego became. I ALWAYS did the most advanced version that I could. I ALWAYS did the arm balance, even when my body said, “Not today.” I would only practice with one teacher. If there was a substitute, I just wouldn’t go. If I would go to class and be surprised with a sub I’d be sad, and a little angry, and it would really affect my practice. “She’s wrong, he’s not doing it right, who IS this teacher? I can’t do that pose, we’re supposed to be doing something else right now!” I would also have to put my mat in the same place every time. Years of practice equal more lessons, though; now I can be excited when I see a sub. “What will I learn today?” Sometimes I enjoy the class, sometimes I don’t, but I still learn something. I now move my mat around almost every class, too. I like the different perspectives and energies in the room. Sometimes I like to be in the front to limit distractions if I’m feeling wound up, sometimes I like to be in the back of the room if I want to hide inside myself a little. I am practicing different styles of yoga, too, and finding them just as much fun, just as “hard”, and just as much of a learning experience.
I think the most important thing I’m learning about my practice is what it really means to me on any given day, and how it is allowing me to be more in tune with my mind, my emotions, and with my physical self. I am learning that things change all the time, and our needs change with them. I am learning that every day is different. Today I may fly…tomorrow I may curl up in a very long child’s pose instead. Some days I fall all over my mat, others I can NAIL that eagle pose with laser focus. Some days I crave hot power…sometimes I crave a much more restorative practice. Just as being surprised with new teachers and new styles has become fun, not knowing what will show up in my own practice each day is becoming fun, as well. What WILL I learn today?