Every day will be different. You are never the same therefore your practice will never be the same.
Being in the 10th year of my yoga practice I have faced myself time and again as I roll out my mat and stare at my reflection in the mirrors, inhabiting different aspects of my personality day after day, class after sweaty class. I have had moments of strength and moments of breakdown and everything in between. There were phases of great growth, not only in my practice, but in my life outside of the room as well. And as I take the podium each day and face my students I see that we are all on a similar journey and we all take on different personas within the framework of the 90-minute class. I think you might identify with these characters. I know they show up in my practice and yours….
The Drama Queen: When The Drama Queen arrives you never know what to expect – tears, moans, groans, out of control breath, or even loud sighs. Every posture is a personal torture that was explicitly designed to make their life a living hell. Accusing glares are handed out to the teacher and the practitioners around them, as if they are to blame for how ridiculously hot it is or how hard it is to achieve each posture’s form and integrity.
When I start leaning into the drama of the heat, the lights, mirrors, and postures I try to see the lighter side of it all. It’s a just a yoga class after all and it, like everything else in life, will soon pass. Try and save the drama for you mama, as they say, or get rid of the drama completely. Life was meant to be lived in joy and shouldn’t mimic the average soap opera.
The Competitor: They line up their mat right next to their neighbor with very little wiggle room to make sure they see if they can out kick, out stretch, and out yoga you in every way. Their definition of a good class is one in which they think, “Man, I am the best yogi in this joint!” strutting towards the showers with a knowing smirk.
Every once in a while, I’m hit with the competitor sidling up beside me when we’re setting up for class. This is when I remind myself that it will be even more important to focus purely on myself. They can compete with me all they want, but I never bought a ticket to the race and I’ll never know who won.
The Broken: They are taped up beyond belief, or have limited motion or endurance throughout the class. They came to heal their body and it won’t be an easy or short road on the way to recovery. The Broken are usually the strongest people in class, but they tend to get frustrated and upset when they don’t see immediate improvement.
These are some of my favorite students. They’ve already made the choice to try and heal through the yoga. They are going to try their hardest because they have to if they want to live life on their terms and what they usually accomplish is nothing short of amazing. Give me The Broken any day.
The Real Estate Agent: They are there waiting in the parking lot for the teacher to open up the doors and let them in to claim their spot. It is THEIR spot. Fools sometimes claim it as their own, but they are misinformed. Their day is ruined if they do not practice in this particular spot in the hot room.
What the Real Estate Agent does not realize is they are seriously missing out. If they moved at least once a week to a different spot the teacher would be able to see them from a different vantage point and offer new corrections to help them with their practice. Don’t be attached to anything – everything changes. Believing that practicing in a certain spot will make or break you will delay your progression in the long run.
The Cheater: Any chance they get to make the postures easier they will take it. They take classes from the teacher that won’t correct them or decides to ignore their bad behavior. If they think the teacher isn’t watching they’ll choose not to get the grip, take the bigger step, or truly engage. They showed up physically, but are not ready to release who they are right now and make a change.
Whenever I encounter The Cheater I encourage their good behavior and try and see past the bad stuff. They showed up for some reason, eventually they will see that they are only cheating themselves and begin to know that there is more for them if they simply do it the right way.
The Weeper: They are crying through the whole class or maybe get the sniffles coming out of Triangle or Camel Pose. After class they apologize for crying even though no one even knows. The best part of hot yoga is that tears blend in with the sweat.
They came to release something and they did. Maybe they didn’t even know they were sad until they took a good deep breath. They are connecting to their life right now and making room to release the past. Be sure that if The Weeper shows up in your practice that you make the decision to go through the class cry out what you can and then be done with it. We can easily continue to play the same tapes in our head and end up crying on our mat for years. Get help outside of the room if you need it, but otherwise let it go in every sense of the word.
The Fashion Model: They have the cutest outfit on in the room, the best yogi topknot messily laced into their hair, and have even taken the time to put on waterproof mascara. The problem is they are more caught up in what they look like and how their outfit and hair have been transformed as they drip with sweat throughout the entire 90-minutes that they constantly futz with themselves instead of trying to concentrate on the postures and their breath.
The Fashion Model doesn’t usually have a long foray in the hot room. They usually travel to drier climates or transform enough to give up trying to look their best throughout the class, trading in their worry about looking perfect for that perfect yogi glow.
The Judge & Jury: They know exactly who to blame for their discomfort that day. It could be the teacher, their neighbor on the mat next to them, that glass of wine they had last night, whoever runs the heat in this place, or that text they received right before they entered the studio.
When the Judge & the Jury come out to play it’s best to remember that you are solely responsible for your life and your reactions to everything that arrives upon your path. No one made you come to yoga (yet it was probably the best choice) and no one is to blame for whatever may be going on in your mind at the moment. Slow down the breath, take a break if you need to, and be good to yourself. If it arrived on your path it’s because you can handle it and your yoga practice will probably help you handle it in the best way possible.
The Policeman: This student has their eye on everyone in the room silently ticking away all of the transgressions they see as the class moves from posture to posture. Someone took a water break before they should have? Someone left to go to the bathroom? Yet another student sat out a posture? The instructor accidentally called the posture by the wrong name? They took note of it all and will be passing tickets out after class.
The Policeman usually makes their presence known in the locker room after class. They ask why someone had to leave or whispers to a friend if they noticed another student doing the wrong posture. Eventually this student will release this habit. It might take some time. The yoga always does its work. Little by little they will see there is nothing to be gained from judging everyone in the class and the only way to get better at their practice is to concentrate on that reflection in the mirror and nothing else.
The Bartender: They are ready to sweat and have every liquid available to them (sans the alcohol and coffee) in case they need it. Their mat is lined with water, sparkling water, coconut water, electrolyte power packs, and if they can sneak it in, a bag of ice.
Depending on what the studio rules are, the Bartender might be able to get away with this for a while. Most studios only allow water into the hot room. At some point the Bartender will let the hydration part of a hot yoga practice happen outside of the room, before and after class, and close the bar down. It’s simply a distraction and an escape from everything the hot room and the practice has to offer. We all have a resistance to facing what we need to in our practice and in life and this is a very well thought out and planned way to resist. Who can focus on the postures when they are mixing up their favorite hydration cocktail?
The Escape Artist: They are a master on how to leave the hot room, even for the briefest of moments, throughout the 90-minutes. The teacher turns their head and they are half way out the door. You hit the 2-minute Savasana and they are headed out with their water bottle claiming they need more water. They always have to go to the bathroom or leave early. They know how to get out of there.
Eventually, the Escape Artist wants more. They want to be a happy and healthy and they know what they are doing to sabotage it. This student changes their tactics quickly if taken aside by the teacher and asked why they are doing what they are doing. Sometimes knowing it’s noticeable is good incentive to make a change.
Happiness Personified: Most of the other faces of yoga are jealous of this one. They show up, could care less where they practice, try their hardest, and let every moment go as soon as they step out of the hot room. They aren’t too attached to their water bottle, aren’t affected by the people surrounding them, or even of the teacher’s voice, style of teaching, or corrections. They are in the moment, with a slight smile on their lips, as they move from posture to posture. They are grateful for the opportunity to practice and for what their body is able to achieve within this small time frame. They laugh at themselves when they falter or fall out, yet strive for better balance, alignment, or stamina. They are happy.
This is what we are all working for. It doesn’t happen everyday, but when it happens embrace it, love this moment, and know that you always have the choice to be Happiness Personified.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your practice or which one of these faces of yoga you are personifying at the moment. What matters is that you show up. I’ve been The Drama Queen, The Competitor, The Real Estate Agent, The Cheater, The Fashion Model, The Judge & The Jury, and The Policeman. They don’t show up to practice with me most days, but I have compassion when they show up for others. Just last week I was The Broken, and not two days ago I was The Weeper. But what I am always working for is Happiness Personified. Sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn’t, though the more I reach for it and set my intention towards it, the more it I get it.
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” – Pema Chodron
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