I teach yoga almost everyday. For this, I’m grateful. And fortunate.
I love the students who show up with their mats and their water. They have their special clothes and they like a certain place in the room. Sometimes, they pick themselves up and try another corner. Sometimes, they find their space taken by someone new and they have to accommodate a change they didn’t want. Ah well. Such is life. They move and find a new space to inhabit. It’s a lesson, whether they realize it at the moment or not.
Someone asked me recently what my favorite part of yoga class is. ‘That’s easy,’ I said. ‘The sangha.’
‘The community of folks,’ I said. ‘All of us hanging out.’
She clarified. ‘No, no, I mean, like the sun salutes or the backbends or handstands.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Then it’s the breath.’ It’s true: I do love hearing everyone breathing. It’s hypnotic. And slightly euphoric.
She shrugged again and I felt like I should just stop answering her questions. I made nice and said that I like teaching all the poses and I love the hello and good-bye portion of class. (Also true. People come in a little scattered; people leave with bright eyes. It makes me melt a little to see them transit through these phases.)
The woman told me that she liked savasana.
‘Yay,’ I said. ‘Me too.’ Because sometimes I try to make nicer than nice. (Though I do love savasana. I mean, come on. I’m not totally crazy!)
As I thought about this interaction later, I wondered if I’d been unnecessarily obtuse. I thought that maybe I should have just picked a pose or two. It’s not like I don’t know that asana classes are comprised of a sequence of poses. I spend a lot of time putting these sequences together for my students, and I always hope I do a good job. When I teach, I enjoy almost all of the asana I include. When there’s a pose I don’t like to teach, I intentionally teach it again and again. When there’s a pose I’m not enjoying, I try to find ways to do it with pleasure. So, surely, I could have just told this woman that I like all the parts of a yoga class for different reasons.
Then again, I told her the truth. My favorite part of a yoga asana class IS the community. It inspires me to refine my personal practice, to think compassionately about the limitations of my body and other bodies, and to share my happiness with others.
All of which, in my mind, contributes to the greater purpose of a yoga class: to make yoga a to-go affair. It should be prepared and packaged up special order to each and every person interested in living a good life. It should be seasoned to taste and delicious to the practitioner’s unique experiential taste buds.
Which is a big ask out of a 75-minute class, one or two times a week.
Which is why a few private yoga sessions can be a nice supplement to a developing practice. Yoga, essentially, is a science intended to help us develop the wisdom to pursue lives appropriate to our natures. It may start in the studio but it doesn’t have to stay there. Yoga can come and go from the studio. It can develop anywhere, really. On the beach. In your room. On the lawn. Even distractions don’t really detract from a yoga practice if you decide to accept their place in this world without letting them interfere in yours. (That’s harder when it’s a kid or a spouse with a demand, but communication helps this kind of conundrum. As in, ‘Not just now, thanks. In a moment.’) (Okay, MAYBE the kid will get it. The spouse? That depends on the training you’ve done with each other.)
So here’s an exercise for you. A real life yoga exercise. Try it at home. Or anywhere.
Every morning for one week, set aside five minutes—that’s nothing, really—to do the following:
At the end, smile. Go get a glass of water and tell someone you love them. Why not? That’s the best way to learn that our very highest purpose is to create and share love with others. The movement and the breath are just the tools we use to do this without too much interference from negative stuff. (Of course, yoga offers other tools as well. Meditation is one that’s particularly nice. But more on that later.)
Finally, let me know how it goes, hey? And if you want some guidance, ring me up. I’m happy to help. Seriously, it’s what I love to do.
And remember! You can always find me at Eight Elements West in La Jolla.