Real Life Yoga Practice

Photo by Michele Venne

Often when one begins a yoga practice, they attend a class often because their doctor suggests that gentle stretching would benefit them. For those who find a good studio and the right teacher, they realize there is so much more that yoga has to offer than flexible hips, stronger arms, and better sleep. I spent about seven years taking yoga classes at a few different studios before deciding to complete the teacher training program. That was in 2009.

Since then, I’ve been offered multiple opportunities to laugh at myself when I forget what I’ve learned. As with many fields of study, we understand first on an intellectual level, maybe share with others when we notice something about a particular situation and how what we know can be applied, before settling (maybe) in experiential knowledge. 

When I’m working with students and find myself feeling frustrated with how they are showing up (they didn’t do their homework, they cancel our session, they fail to “learn” what I’m trying to teach, etc.), I remind myself of my yoga knowledge. Events can be no different than how they are at that moment. My frustration isn’t because of the student, but because that situation isn’t how I want it to be.

If I allow myself to travel down the road of annoyance, nothing gets accomplished. I just end up in a bad mood, which isn’t helpful for anyone. If, instead, I acknowledge the feeling of “annoyance” (this is not how it should be) and “frustration” (anger over things not being how I want them to be), I can let them pass through, take a breath (or five), and then let go. In less than a minute (I’ve timed myself!), I can come back to what is in that moment and recognize the peace inside me.

There is pain in life (student cancels session, student doesn’t do homework, student doesn’t appear to be “learning”), what might be happening in that moment. Then there is suffering (I’m annoyed because now my day is different than what I planned, I’m frustrated because the student has no work ethic, I’m angry because I feel like I’m wasting my time). I can increase the suffering by yelling at the student, by calling friends and telling the story over and over, I can carry a grudge so when I show up next time my experience is just as “awful” . . . or I can recognize, reflect, and let go.