I’ve recently come across several people who ‘used to practice yoga’. I’m wondering if they fall under the category of “I used to go to the gym”, “I used to own a truck”, or “I used to travel a lot in my job”. It was something that they did with their time, like a number on a to-do list that was checked off once they attended class and spent the requisite 60 or 90 minutes on their mat. And that’s fine. In an effort to step back from judgement about how they could have used all that time on their mat, I choose whether or not to comment, or just smile and offer an encouraging word to get them to move back to the practice, even if it was solely an asana practice. I’m not sure how many conversations I can have regarding getting a ‘yoga butt’.
Even though I had been practicing at the studio for a couple of years before I entered teacher training, I had heard much regarding the philosophy of yoga and didn’t think I would be challenged to the degree I was as I completed the program. There are times even now that I revert back to a little confusion over the seemingly constant paradoxes presented in the yogic texts. But like any other subject to be learned and internalized, it is best to make sense of something as you teach it to others. I did that as I led my students through the Eight Limbs and other invitations yoga offers us as a way to live a more artful life. Sometimes I used an example from my life, and other times I kept it relegated to the physical practice on the mat.
Without knowing it, perhaps I wasn’t really paying attention, some event occurs, and I find I remind myself of, “allow”, “surrender”, “accept”, all of which don’t mean to roll over and take abuse from another person or buy into the story of the ego. Occasionally, and I always laughed when it occurred, a student would remind me of something I had said during our time together on the mat, such as, “just breathe”, or “it’s only sensation”, or “what is your intention?” Perhaps they were listening after all! And what I have found, with the time that I have been studying and reading and teaching others, is that a transformation has occurred, and I don’t believe I was aware of the entire process, only the outcome.
In the past ten days or so, I have had quite a roller coaster ride. My teaching position was eliminated (mutually agreed upon) so that I could serve in a different capacity. Schedule changes and myriad other details followed, causing the anxiety level of my colleagues to ramp up significantly. As I was helping with that transition, my father had a heart attack and had to be flown, via helicopter, to Phoenix where he underwent a quadruple bypass. A couple of days later, I was required to spend the day at the courthouse with a jury summons. Finals were scheduled that week at school, a friend went out of town and I offered to dog sit for her. On top of all of these events, I had to continue with my teaching schedule, my yoga students, and I even attempted to make a class or two at the studio for myself.
I know some people who would have been caught up in the drama, the ‘woe is me’ story that the ego plays hoping for attention. Instead, I, playing the part of Arjuna, did my duty. I received fewer hours of sleep, but there was little worry, anxiety, depression, or any other emotion that would normally swing a person wildly from one side of the spectrum to the other. The days were filled with facts: father in the hospital, courthouse appearance, horses to feed, classes to teach, etc. I would have been much more exhausted had I opted for the misery the mind creates. This has been such an experiment for me to detach from all the possible craziness and rest in the peace that I know is always inside of me. The funny thing is, beside the couple of times that I actually, consciously, thought about a tool or technique of yoga, I moved through my days and the events wholly present and doing the next thing that was in front me.
It wasn’t until the past day or so that I began to realize what has allowed me to remain in the middle section of the spectrum, and not swing from side to side. There were still emotions, and I still experienced them (I’m still human!), but they had less of an effect on my actions and thoughts. The transformation, seemingly so hard-fought during the teacher training, has apparently taken a firm hold. I admit that I’m not an expert, and that I don’t have it ‘down pat’, but I am thankful to acknowledge that a change has occurred, and though I wasn’t cognizant of it every step of the way, I recognize I’ve made it to the other side of a bridge or road or door . . . and the possible daily drama colors my experience less than it did before I began the program.
When I was learning how to be an Academic Language Therapist, so much of the intricacies of the English language were new to me simply because they had never been taught in any of my classes in school. We were told that we’d ‘learn right along with the students’ which I can tell you is a little disconcerting. As a teacher, we’re taught to know where the curriculum is going and to be prepared to answer myriad questions that students might generate. Learn along with the students? In some lessons, they were right.
I know that the transformation that began the first time I stepped onto my yoga mat will continue for the rest of my life. I will have new experiences with which to apply the practice of yoga, and I’ll have students that will request I explain the apparent paradoxes in a way that demonstrates my comprehension. This understanding, I believe, can only come from having made my own sense of the teachings of yoga. On this side of the thresh hold, I can hold open the door for others to follow. Is the transformation possible for my students? Absolutely. Will I know every step they must take to follow the change that will occur within them if they are vested in living with more peace and ease? Probably not. But I know enough to guide them with thoughtful questioning and an understanding smile when they begin to make their own connections.
Many of these connections that I made are expressed in 25 poems that I wrote during my teacher training. You can read three of them on my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com as well as order the entire poem project, Yogis All: A Journey of Transformation Volume I. Have you recognized a transformation from your journey on the mat while utilizing the tools and techniques yoga offers? I’d love to hear it, so leave a comment below. Namaste.