My first few years of practice are kind of a blur at this point. I have some distinct memories of where I preferred to practice in the hot room, how I would arrive a full thirty minutes early to class, to assure I had my favorite spot, the clothes I wore to class, the beach towel I put down on top of my rubber mat, and how my water was warm by the first water break. It was twelve years ago and a lot has changed.
There are now insulated water bottles that allow you have ice for the whole class. This alone is one of the most amazing feats I have witnessed in modern technology. There are hot yoga mats you can throw in the washer and dryer. There are too many cute hot yoga clothes companies to count or even choose from. Yoga clothes are a new addiction that many yogis face. Soon there will be support groups for us with dresser drawers and closets full of the latest side string shorts.
And as the gear associated with hot yoga has changed, I too have of course matured into my practice. I will admit that when I first started practicing I believed I knew way more about the yoga than I did. I believed that my teachers didn’t know what they were talking about when it came to certain postures. Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee is a leg stretch right? It was all about keeping the legs straight ramming my head to my shin and smiling at the accomplishment of it. Take one step at a time and accomplish one step with integrity before moving on to the next part of a posture? Why? When I can obviously kick out my leg in Standing Head to Knee Pose and look like I’m more advanced than I am? I was a know-it-all and stubborn and kind of… stupid.
My yoga teachers were patient with me. They waited until I understood that they weren’t just ordering me around. They hung around and watched as I did the postures the wrong way over and over again despite their direction. They knew one day I would understand and that I would go back and do the real work to get the posture as “right” as I could. And I am grateful for their patience.
But, little did I know that karma would have its way with me. I didn’t know that I too, would one be a teacher, and have not just one student that reminded me of myself when I first started practicing, but at least twenty of me all at once in a constant rotation.
I have witnessed students that are stubborn, or refuse to listen to what I’m telling them, in every class. And, yes, sometimes it pokes at me in the wrong way, when I see a student charge into something they are not ready for yet, or force their body into a position without using the proper technique, but not because I think I am all-knowing or upset that they won’t listen to me. It’s more out of concern for them and how they are treating their body throughout the class. When I am teaching class, it is not about me at all, but about the students in front of me.
So, I do for them, what my teachers did for me over a decade ago. I wait. I have patience. I work to connect with each student, so that they trust me. Sometimes this takes years. I have given a correction to a one student or another time and again, but if they aren’t ready to hear it, I can’t force them to. When they are ready for the change in the body and in the mind, they will hear and understand in a new way and begin to pursue this new knowledge.
And that is exciting. When a student wakes up to what the posture can teach them about themselves, instead of wielding power over the posture, yoga is happening. The teacher is in the room. And that teacher does not don a microphone or wear the latest print of yoga capris, or even have a water bottle that keeps the water ice cold until the end of class and beyond. This teacher is the gentle whisper from within that exudes a quiet power, a stillness, and tells you, “Keep going.”