Last week I took a class that humbled me beyond words. Let me preface this with the understanding that the day before this class I was not really treating myself like someone who practices yoga. My husband and I spent the day outside catching some summer fun. We drank cocktails and ate bad food. Water wasn’t really a big part of this day. That night I tried to hydrate for the following morning, but then, at that point, I was just trying to catch up. I did not sleep well. And it was finally cool enough outside to open up the windows again overnight and get some fresh air into our place and because of this I woke up with a stuffy nose. Had I really taken the 24-hours leading up to this class into consideration I would have expected the worst, but I thought I’d be fine. No expectations right?
But I knew as soon as my arms went over my head and I interlocked my fingers releasing my index finger to get into the set up for Half Moon Pose that this was going to be a tough one. I was already raining onto my mat. Yes, raining – not just dripping. A constant stream of sweat trickling from every pore of my skin, but this wasn’t the first or the last time I was going to have a tough class. I knew how to handle it and how to get through it – it was just going to be challenging, humbling, and probably a wee bit painful.
So, the best way I have learned to deal with a tough class is to first, pay attention to your breath, as well as the sound of your heartbeat. If the breathing gets too ragged and the heart rate too high, being aware of it is the first part, and then working to slow it down is the second. Sometimes you have to take a break by sitting or kneeling down on the mat. It’s just a fact. It’s not an easy one to face because we like to think that we’re better than that and that breaks are for the weak. But every once in a rare while a break during one of the postures, or a few of the postures, is necessary and can become a beautiful act of compassion you gift to yourself.
Next, I really hone into the dialogue. The words the teacher is speaking are key. Take one word at a time. Your arms – can they go over your head? Yes! Than what’s next. It’s not a whole posture you need to complete. It’s sentence-by-sentence, breath-by-breath eventually getting you through entire postures, which then in turn get you through an entire class.
Now, when I got to Wind Removing Pose my heart rate was so high I knew I needed to rest in Savasana. So, I did. I knew if I was going to make it through the 90-minutes I needed this break so I took it. And I took a few more throughout the Floor Series.
I was surrounded on all sides by teachers and students that inspire me day after day. These were yogis that I admire and have trusted me as I guide them through the class and I would not be lying if I told you my ego wasn’t taking a huge hit each time I had to take a break.
But somewhere during Spine Strengthening Series a thought popped into my head. “It’s not about the postures.” Because it really isn’t. Postures are just the beginning. For me yoga, among other things, is about acceptance. Acceptance of what is happening right now in this present moment. To accept the body and the mind as it is today is powerful stuff, because you will never be in exactly the same place or situation again. And as I laid there trying to control my breath and pick myself up to continue on with the practice I knew it wasn’t my best class by far, but I was still doing it and accepting it for what it was in this moment.
For as we learn to accept where are bodies and minds are, we become more accepting of where others may be as well – that it’s downright beautiful that each person is different not only in looks, but in beliefs and how they perceive the world. And with yoga as our tool, we learn to take it all in and not judge it, but accept it, acknowledge it, and begin to understand that we are all made of that same magical stuff on the most visceral level. That we are all one. And if it takes us sweating day after day in the hot room to realize this, than its all worth it.
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