Monday, February 28, 2011

Everything Yoga

When I took my first yoga class—over 20 years ago!-there were no tag names to the classes. No Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, Beginner, Open, etc. It was just called: Yoga. And you walked in, no matter what “level” you were and you just got on the mat and began practicing. There wasn’t any fanfare. Heck, there weren’t even any props except for the infamous sticky mat.

The beauty of yoga back then is that you quickly came to understand that it was all about your own practice, not the person on the next mat. It was easy to not compete! The person next to me was inverted faster than I was able to move out of my last pose and see what everyone was doing as a follow-up. Compete? It was all I could do to not sit and gawk, mouth ajar. There was no way to feel this because I was too busy feeling other things as I learned to maneuver the language. Oh, and I’m not even talking Sanskrit. Following the English took a few classes. Downward Dog? Cat/Cow? Baby Cobra? Hmmm……what is the deal with all the animal poses?

Yes, yoga brings up many questions. It also provides answers, sets up shop as a sanctuary, offers an ability to better know and be true to thy self. Yoga offers challenge. It creates space. It shares community. It is heart-opening. It is breath-taking and breath-providing. Yoga is joy. Yoga is healing. Yoga stretches, flexes, holds and releases. Through its’ eight limbs it offers an opportunity to shed, gain, understand, accept and radiate--among many other things that are both simple and not, yet always divine.

Now if anyone had provided me with the soliloquy of that last paragraph as I debated stepping into the studio for that very first class…..well, I may not have ever gotten there! However you are always where you are supposed to be. And since that maiden voyage I’ve had the opportunity to practice in many places.

While practicing in India was, I suppose, predictable, taking a yoga class in Lisbon was an adventure and a delight. Not able to speak Portuguese I copied down the address of the studio and had the hotel concierge arranged a reservation for the class. Upon my arrival I was escorted into the owners’ private back office, offered a seat on a beautiful sofa and provided with a cup of tea. When a co-owner came to greet me, we were both confused. She couldn’t understand why I—an American on holiday-wanted to take a class at her humble, neighborhood studio. I couldn’t understand why I was getting VIP treatment for a lunch time, weekday yoga class. It was a highlight of my trip. So, yes, yoga can take you to new places!

The road to yoga is long and winding—if I may borrow from John Lennon. Two years ago that wondrous little voice inside me (that I sometimes don’t hear/listen to as well as I’d like ) spoke loud and clear that I was going to be teaching this practice that I had come to revere. I am now clear that my journey both teaching and learning yoga will be life-long. Hmmmm….perhaps longer.

For the person ready to take those first steps on to the mat I would easily provide the same directive that I now give to my students when setting the foundation of any pose. Ground yourself evenly, check your alignment and remember to breathe. Good words on and off the mat.