As a student of yoga and as a teacher of yoga, I feel the effects of having taught classes 8 days in a row (lovingly and with a calm and peaceful energy that comes over me while teaching and observing my students), having kept up my personal practice, but have not been a student of yoga in over 3 weeks. Having been used to attending a private lesson perhaps once a week and a group lesson, this has been a sudden change at a very stressful time (irony – opening a yoga practice!)
It has not been my desire to not attend classes or keep privates, trust me, but as a mother of two young toddlers, opening a new business, and life moving on at such a fast pace, I have only had my personal practice to rely on. Let’s start here: my mentor, friend, and instructor KNOWS exactly the poses that I don’t like to do, that make me stronger physically and emotionally and this includes longer svasanas and meditations. My personal practice allows me to AVOID those poses and tell myself that I have no time for svasana. My personal practice allows me to keep seeking comfort postures, namely any form of standing on my head for me, instead of undertaking postures outside of my comfort zone, such as handstand in the middle of the room. But this is not all, even my attempts at guided meditation and svasana fail within my environment of toddlers, toys, things that need to be cleaned up, two part beagle dogs barking; not exactly a calming atmosphere. And…yes, as a yoga teacher you may think that, “no matter what environment she’s in, she always is able to attain peace and practice svasana, because she is a yoga teacher and she just has to be calm.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. It is a lack of calmness and a lack of ability to focus on my own breathing, challenge myself emotionally, and awaken myself to bodily limitations that beckoned me to sustain a vigorous and regular yoga practice.
The wiggles, giggles, lifting the left leg up instead of the right, coming into triangle instead of warrior II – this was most definitely me and still is at times! It’s yoga after all; we’re not at a dance recital or a gymnast meet! Now, in my personal practice I definitely have sequencing and a strong flow, but without being the yoga student, I’m not challenging or awakening my body to gentle discomfort and emotionally pushing myself to sit still or sit in restorative postures. After reading an article on Megan Sullivan’s journey to becoming a yoga instructor, I most fully agree with her conclusion. She began as a runner, athlete, being injured and in need of stretching and yoga therapy. She slowly developed a love for yoga and a desire to teach others who desired this therapeutic approach to yoga. She became “yoga instructor.” Although she discusses more of her therapeutic approach in her article and her practice with clients, her journey to becoming a yoga instructor came out of a need for a yoga practice as did mine – a need for calmness in our athletic and fast-paced world and a need to repair and awaken the body and muscles in ways we had never been attuned to before.
The difference and significance of yoga as a practice is that it is about finding the awareness and attunement to the body in the present. As a former competitive tennis player, I had good days and bad days…days where my serve was an ace several times and days where I felt like I couldn’t get the ball over the net or in the lines of the tennis court! The tennis sport and game did not change, days that I was “on or off” did. Yoga changes every moment we practice; therefore, there is no good day or bad day…it’s just a day.
The concept of not being “good or bad” at a pose on a particular day, for me, and many competitive or type A personalities, is still difficult and challenging, but it is true. Yoga is non-judgmental. The main goal, if there is said to be a goal of yoga, is to find peace and calmness in the moment and bring that positive energy back into the world for that day. After my many surgeries and over 7 months of bed rest and obstetrical traumas over a period of 4.5 years, this there “is no good or bad yoga” and this acceptance allowed me to enjoy and reclaim my yoga practice.
Back to my current story. I’ve been going on more than 3 weeks not being a yoga student and relying on my personal practice. Personal practice is wonderful; it is what everyone student should aspire to developing so that they may soothe, heal, and turn to a coping strategy in times of need. However, my only feeling of calm in the past several weeks has been in my yoga studio seeing and observing the inspired students and the calming release of energy of the students in svasana – this is a bliss for me. My yoga studio, my students, and my space is my happy place. But, I must also remember that I am and always will be a yoga student. This is what will make me a better yoga teacher, mother, wife, and friend. I need to be emotionally challenged and stilled. I need to be aware of limitations of the physical body and accepting of mine. We all have our issues that led us to yoga and I have mine and there is no “mastery” of a fluid art such as yoga.
To end…thank goodness I’m getting back on a regular schedule with my yoga teacher, friend, and mentor. We all have that “yoga teacher” that has changed us in some way and this person has changed me and enabled me to be more accepting of my body on a daiy basis, limitations, and the power of allowing the self to relax. But I’m well overdue for a refresher and will always need maintenance therapy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gormley-Etchells, J., & Sullivan, M. (2011). Career of the Month. The Science Teacher, 78(2), 64-65. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24148337