When I was traveling over spring break this year I stopped into a studio to get out the kinks from the long drive and find my yoga groove. A normal thing for yoga addicts to do. There’s something wonderful about stepping into a different community and sharing your energy during a good long sweat fest. As I was talking with the instructor, swapping stories about teacher training and teachers we both knew, a familiar voice called my name out. Turning around I saw a student of mine that had moved away years ago grinning from ear to ear. It was so good to see him! I gave him a big hug and we chatted about what he’s been up to and news from the studio back home before it was time to head into the hot room. The world of yoga is really a very small one at times and as I drove back to the hotel that day I reflected on how grateful I was to have had a chance to catch up with a member of my yoga family.
Now, I usually cringe when people declare things, such as, “It’s like we’re family!” I have a great family already and they are irreplaceable to me. I’ve been stung by the “family” thing before. When I was younger I had a woman over involved at school constantly saying she was everyone’s mom, which is nice, but I already had a mom – a great one, in fact – and I never knew how to handle her opinions or advice as they were unwarranted and most times not in line with the values placed upon me by my parents. It was more than a bit confusing. Then when I was acting professionally I often had fellow actors say something about the cast feeling like family. Having been in show after show and been through this before, it usually was a sign that 6 weeks down the road everybody would be on each other’s last nerve and be more than ready to close the show and move on with their life. We can be friends, but family? Let’s be friends first and see how it goes.
But with yoga something has happened that perhaps has chipped away at my sometimes too tough exterior to have me looking at the souls I get to see every day and think, that, yes, they are in many ways like family to me. Here’s why:
They’ve literally seen you at your worst. In yoga we see it all. Not only are you red faced and sweating from every single pore of your body, with your hair mashed into a sopping ponytail, you are at times practicing sick, overtired, crying, or in pain. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but the people around you are always there to share their energy and give you boost.
They celebrate your smallest achievements. You grabbed your foot from the inside for the first time in Standing Bow? You were able to start to go back in Fixed Firm? Did you kick out in Standing Head to Knee? The people you practice with day after day are just as excited to see it happen as you were to be able to achieve it. If you can do it, so can the first time student in the back row someday. Your practice is not always for you. It is also an inspiration to others. When you go deeper, the person on the mat next to you believes they can too.
You’ve accidentally flicked sweat on them and they still love you. Classes can be packed at times with very little wiggle room in between the mats. They don’t care that your arms tapped each other during Full Locust, or that your sweat hit the mirror as you raised your arms over your head before entering a posture. What most people would deem as gross, we just see it as another day of our practice. The comradery of what you face each day within your practice makes you closer in spirit than most people ever get.
When you see them outside of the studio you can’t help but give them a big hug. Wow! Make-up, dry hair, and normal clothes! You might not recognize your yoga family members away from the studio, but when you do, you won’t be able to resist giving them a big hug and looking around in wonder that you ran into each other, out and about in your normal lives. I love running into my yoga peeps – it’s an unexpected surprise that makes the day even brighter!
When they go on a vacation, business trip or have to take a break you notice they are not around and seriously miss them. “Where have you been?” A question I ask often and hear often at the studio. When the people you see every day miss more than one of their regular sessions you wonder where they have gone. You miss their energy and their presence in the room. It’s hard to get back to your practice if you had to take a break, but your yoga friends, your yoga family are waiting for you to return.
The truth is every person you come in contact with has been brought into your life for a reason. Treat them with love and respect and you will find that things that you think separate us don’t even exist. We are all one family in the end. Yoga has taught me that and I am nothing short of grateful.