When I first started regularly going to the studio to practice yoga, in what now seems a billion years ago, there was a man that always set up at the back of the room. He was friendly and would chat with the teachers behind the desk before class and nod a greeting to the familiar faces in the room as he would roll out his mat. He was never distracting or caused any trouble as we went through class.
The reason I took notice of this student was the way he approached some of the postures. Or I should say didn’tapproach the postures. We would begin Standing Head to Knee Pose and he would stand there with one leg up, spine straight and wait until it was over. He would always sit out during second set of Triangle Pose. Towards the end of class, he skipped Head to Knee with Stretching completely. That was his practice. That was his routine.
I never judged it, just noticed it, as he was always slightly behind me and in my vision. I had enough to deal with when it came to my own practice, my own mental chatter, my own dealings with the heat, that this man was just part of the scenery on my own yoga journey.
Several years later, when I was leading class and standing on the podium, this man entered the room. I hadn’t seen him in years. I recognized him as what I would call in our community, the Old Guard, referring to students that I remembered practicing with a decade ago, even though I really didn’t know their names or anything about them, really, but were always in my surroundings and memories when I think about my beginnings. He recognized me, too, and complimented me on the choice to become an instructor.
As we started class, though, I couldn’t help but notice that nothing had changed in his practice. Standing Head to Knee looked the same as it did before. He sat out second set of Triangle. He skipped Head to Knee with Stretching. Nothing had changed. It was ten years later, and nothing had changed.
A few months in to seeing him regularly in my classes, I asked why he didn’t even try to grab the foot in Standing Head to Knee. He said he couldn’t. When I asked why, he told me it was uncomfortable. Painful? I asked. No, just uncomfortable. I urged him to try and lean forward towards the foot for part of the time. Next time I had him in class he never tried it, even when I urged him to give it a go. He simply didn’t want to. And that’s when I knew to back off, be grateful he was practicing at all, and let it go.
What I think stops most students from letting go of their quirks within their practice, or stops them moving forward through a block in the body and mind is they would have to embrace something entirely new if they do it. It’s not about the novelty of being able to perform a certain aspect of a posture, it’s who they would have to become if they could do it.They would have to acknowledge that things were changing, that progress was happening. They would have to be someone else entirely – the someone that could do the posture, the someone that healed a part of their physical or emotional body, the someone that was getting stronger on so many levels.
One thing I know for sure, is that people like their “stuff.” It’s comfortable. It’s predictable. When you start to let go of your “stuff” it can be scary. Life is no longer the same. You are no longer the same.
This week, as you practice, notice where you get blocked up, where you are still approaching the posture the same way as when you started, or the thought that pops into your head just before you move forward into new territory within the confines of a posture. Do you always fall out in the same exact spot? Do you always sit out at the same time? Do you always give up when an instructor gives you a correction or adjustment?
Notice it this week. Make plans to move past it the next. Embody who you desire to be and soon you will be that person. Whether it’s about accomplishing some goal within a posture, or a goal you are trying to accomplish in your life away from the studio, this is key. Give thanks for every step of your journey, but most of all give thanks for what’s to come.
Yoga Story of the Week
Home Studio: Bikram Yoga Aurora
I was intrigued by the concept of the hot room after my daughters had taken some classes. I practiced for a few months, had some issues with my knee (likely because I was still running then) and stopped going. I ended up going back six months later and now…. ten years have passed. Since I can’t run any more, it’s important to me to keep up with my practice. It’s the toughest workout I’ve ever done and as I’m aging I want to continue practicing because of the balance, strength, focus and concentration the yoga brings to my life. At sixty-five years old (young?) and three years post knee replacement, I think my practice is stronger than ever.
I know when I was contemplating my knee replacement I couldn’t find anyone who knew anyone who had gone through with it and kept up with yoga. I think people need to know that 1) you can keep your practice and 2) it will get better!
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Saturday, February 16th – Hot Yoga Workshop, 1:30pm-3:30pm at Meadows Hot Yoga
Saturday, March 2nd – Arm Balancing Workshop, 12:30pm-1:30pm at FUEL: Mind to Body
Saturday, March 16th – Arm Balancing Workshop, 12:30pm-1:30pm at Bikram Yoga Aurora