I love the holiday season at the yoga studio. It’s the one time of year where regular practitioners are determined to fit in their practice, new students come in by the dozens, and students from all over the country, in town visiting relatives join the fold and share their energy and practice with our community. Hot yoga addicts laden down with a hectic social schedule are grateful for even the most heart melting, sweltering, wow-I-shouldn’t-have-had-that-second-glass-of-wine class and come out smiling, saying crazy things like, “You killed me in the best way today! Thank you!”
As I took the podium last week a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States I noticed a practitioner at the back of the room I had not had in class before. The half hour check-in was a blur as students descended upon the studio after a long day’s work and I had had little time to connect with the faces that weren’t too familiar. She had been at the studio before, though and as we started class I quickly put her into the category of “visiting student,” instead of “newer student,” simply by the way she met her gaze in the mirror, lined up her feet and engaged her legs and core when setting up for Pranayama Breathing.
As I led my students through the Bikram Yoga Series I couldn’t help but be caught off guard by her excellent technique, focus, and balance. Standing Head to Knee was gorgeous and strong, looking effortless on this obviously devoted practitioner, Standing Bow Pulling Pose exhibited standing splits, grace, and balance as I had not seen in quite some time. Each posture seemed…perfect. I couldn’t help but stare. In fact I had to force myself not to stare, and pay attention to the other 30 bodies in the room, just as I would have to when a student is doing their own version of the postures instead of following along with Dialogue and listening to each step, kicking out with a bent leg, doing a Yoga Journal version of Tree Pose, or pushing up to a straight arm position in Cobra Pose.
I have often had students say I make them nervous when I practice near them or that they are distracted watching my practice instead of focusing on their own when I’m in the hot room. I honestly have no idea why – my practice still needs a ton of work. On the other hand I get it, I have already put a ton of work into it and maybe they like to see what’s possible when you commit yourself to a regular practice.
As I pushed my students through the 90 minutes I was reminded of what was still possible for me even though my mind started making excuses, such as, “I’m sure she was a gymnast at some point, or maybe her mom’s a contortionist and it runs in the family.” I stopped myself there, as I started to sound like what my distant relatives I only see once in awhile say to me when they see me or their tone when they comment in reaction to a post displaying a shot of my yoga practice to Facebook. This somewhat perfect yoga student in my class probably had gotten her practice the good old fashioned way – through hard work, a ton of sweat, and a peeling of emotional layers that takes years and years to accomplish.
As class ended and I greeted my students with, “Awesome job guys!” as they hit the cool air in the studio lobby, I had a chance to talk with the impressive student in the back row.
“Your practice is amazing! How long have you been practicing?” I inquired.
“Fourteen years and I’ve been teaching for 10,” she replied. “Thanks for a great class!”
We then talked teacher shop trading stories and locales and other nonsense. As she picked up her stuff and headed out the doors I smiled.
If it can happen for her, it can happen for me, too, and you, out there, as well. I might, someday have the practice I dream of having, where I rock Standing Head to Knee every single day and hit the splits in Standing Bow. I might not, and that’s okay too. The trying of it all is the fun part anyway. Goals will be met and some goals may not be achieved. There is no such thing as a perfect yogi anyway. What you realize after awhile in the heat is that we’re all simply reaching for a true glimpse of our highest Self, not perfection, and if you start to see it reflect back at you in the hot room mirrors you’ve achieved more in your practice and your life than most people will ever achieve. You are limitless my friends. Go out and make your goals and dreams come to life. It’s time…
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