“There will be no correct clothes
There will be no proper payment
There will be no right answers
No glorified teachers
No ego no script no pedestals
No you're not good enough or rich enough
This yoga is for everyone
This sweating and breathing and becoming
This knowing glowing feeling
Is for the big small weak and strong
Able and crazy
Brothers sisters grandmothers
The mighty and meek
Bones that creak
Those who seek
This power is for everyone.”
--From the Yoga to the People homepage
I went to hot yoga tonight after more than four weeks off. I was worried that what little stamina I had built up during the two or three weeks I was going consistently would be gone.
Surprisingly I felt better than ever, despite the fact that it was a night class and I was tired (and so tempted to skip it to watch reruns of Eli Stone).
I love this yoga for so many reasons. Because it pushes me beyond my comfort level. Because it works my mind as much as it works my body. Because of how I feel when it is all over.
Here are three stories from yoga that I would like to share with you:
Yoga Story #1
The last yoga class I went to before my trip to Paris I was one of three women in the room. Both were older than me, in their early sixties I would guess.
The first woman was fit and trim and looked like a marathon runner. She was quiet and kept to herself while dressing for class. The second woman was overweight and looked like a grandma. While we dressed for class she chatted with me about her yoga blog and how much she hated this yoga studio. The teachers were inexperienced, the room was too hot, it was nothing like HER yoga studio in another part of the city.
I wondered, but didn't ask, what the heck she was doing here given all of that, but I didn't say anything to refute or defend the teacher or the studio. I just listened and then went into the yoga studio determined to have a good experience despite her opinions.
As we moved into the first postures of the class it became apparent that woman number two was not having a good experience. She was stopping to rest, taking child's pose and breathing heavily.
Whenever the teacher tried to assist her she refused the advice, letting us all know that she has been taking yoga for MONTHS and knew what it was supposed to be like and this was NOT it. The room was too hot, too humid, too something and her body was not used to it, liking it, or able to handle it.
Mid-way through the class she left in a huff, never to return.
After class I went up to the teacher and said, “Don't worry about her, she had the experience she wanted to have.” The teacher said, "Thanks," and that she knew that was true.
I walked into the dressing room feeling a little bit disappointed in myself. I had resisted taking the first woman's side against the teacher, but I had been unable to resist taking the teacher's side against the recalcitrant student. I had to admit to myself that I took a little glee in her inability to stay in the room after her rant in the dressing room and was happy to share that feeling with the teacher.
Yoga Story #2
Today's class was a whole different ballgame.
A night class, it was practically full when I got there ten minutes before the start of class. Twice we had to shift our mats over to make room for new students. We were practically hip to hip and toe to toe with one another in a VERY hot room. It was more than a little bit uncomfortable.
It was particularly uncomfortable because the majority of the students in the room looked as if they were from the local college and were MUCH younger than myself. This did not lend confidence to my feeling of being ill-prepared after such a long absence from class.
Nonetheless, I steeled myself and walked into the room, looking for a spot.
Two nice girls moved over and made a place for me, no doubt thinking that being parked next to me was going to make them look good. Or that's what I was thinking anyway.
A few minutes into class I realized that this was not necessarily the case. Not only was I feeling stronger and more flexible than I remembered or imagined, I had one thing going for me that these girls did not. Age.
At the beginning of every class they instruct you to work to your level, to find your own eyes in the mirror and to meditate on your experience only, not looking around the room, not comparing, not trying to best someone else's poses. I decided that would be my only goal for the night: to find my own eyes and keep them there.
I managed to do this pretty well, although I did look around peripherally while gazing straight ahead. What I saw was a bunch of twenty-somethings trying to keep up with each other.
In standing head to knee pose (Dandayamana-Janushirasana) you stand firm on one leg, keeping it perfectly straight and locked while you bend the other leg and hold your foot in your hands. The idea is to keep your second leg bent as long as your first leg (the one standing strong on the ground) is shaky or wobbly. You hold this pose for a full minute before shifting to the other leg. It is not easy.
In fact, it is damn hard. My standing leg was moving and grooving, shaking and wobbling, but I managed to stand on it for the full minute.
As I looked around in the mirror I saw twenty-something girls who had fallen off of their standing leg move right back into the pose and right back into the more advanced position (in this position you kick out your bent leg until it is parallel to the floor, making the standing leg all the more unsteady), from which they fell again.
I felt great compassion for them because I knew that in my twenties I was that girl. The girl who was SO strong and SO flexible and SO well, let's just say it, COOL that I would do the most difficult iteration of any pose even if my body was screaming at me not to.
I started to feel good about myself. Downright proud really, for being comfortable with who I am and where I am.
From there it was just a small hop, skip and a jump to: "Wow, check me out, I am kicking these twenty-something girls' butts. I am the yoga QUEEN. I ROCK. CHECK ME OUT."
I lost my focus. I lost my straight-ahead gaze. I lost my eyes in the mirror. And I fell right out of my pose.
I laughed at myself and sent the Universe a silent message, “Message received. Back to the business at hand.”
I found my own eyes and I kept them there for the rest of class. (Okay once in awhile they veered to the VERY hot guy in the row behind me, but not for competitive purposes....)
Yoga Story #3
On the way out of class tonight I stopped at the shoe rack to grab my shoes and put on my coat. A bunch of thirty-somethings from the class were sitting there talking about running a half marathon and advising a woman doing her first not to run more than ten miles in training.
One of the guys turns to me and says, “You're wearing a marathon shirt, what do you think? How far did you train before you did the half?”
I paused and smiled to myself. Of course he assumed that I had gotten the shirt for doing the half. No one looks at me and thinks: marathon runner.
My Ego was tempted, but my post-yoga Higher Self was strong and I said, “I agree, you want to have something to strive for on the day. If you run the full thirteen before the race, the race can be kind of a let down. Good luck.”
And I walked out the door. I knew that I had run a full marathon and that was all that mattered.