I’ve been making an effort to get on my mat for 20-30 minutes a day at home and rebuild my daily practice. I haven’t been going out to classes lately, and have been feeling a bit jaded about some aspects of modern/western practice.
But in the big picture, it’s still an invaluable part of taking care of my physical body as well as my mind and spirit. Recently, in a quiet moment, I received the message: “You are your greatest teacher.” Thank you, universe, for reminding me to listen to my intuition and to my body, and to release self-judgment.
Last year, I was working in a yoga studio that had a different approach to the practice than I do. Not bad or wrong, just different. I had a client returning to me for my morning classes on a very regular basis, but upon seeing her wobbling in a pose and occasionally falling out, my manager told me “That’s not yoga.”
Her argument was that as the body moves in and out of a pose and struggles, the mind cannot enter a steady, meditative place. (I find that the lessons learned when we fall out of a pose are a big part of the spiritual aspect of practice, but whatever.) What I heard in her first three words were an indictment of my teaching skill.
I was really hurt. I had studied long and hard, and I had a few classes pick up in attendance, but to be told that I’m not actually teaching yoga stung. I felt indignant. My relationship with that person and that studio fizzled, but it’s something I look back on regularly when I consider why I’m taking a break from teaching.
There are so many yogic schools of thought and styles of practice that they often are in direct conflict with one another. And at that time I didn’t feel strong enough or experienced enough to stand my ground on the issue.
After my time there, I began practicing at a studio that generally caters to more advanced students. I thought of it as the perfect opportunity to watch my practice evolve and push my boundaries. Sure enough, the studio was filled with people really pushing and striving.
I started to feel that the pendulum had overcorrected and swung all the way to a place where people were grunting and sweating their way into wobbling handstands. After being exposed to that energy, I started to feel an ugly, perfectionist, judgmental critical side of myself coming out: Why can’t I do that? Why am I so behind in my practice? Why aren’t I stronger?
All that striving energy woke up my inner overachiever, and it’s been a slow journey in getting her to simmer the fuck down.
I think in the near future, I'll get back to teaching, but lately my personal practice has been a loose, home-based one. One where I struggle on the floor of my kitchen and while laying on my belly, find a piece of uncooked pasta that got away from me. One where I can listen to reggae or Philip Glass or flamenco guitar as I do silly variations of cat-cow. One where I move for 10 minutes and meditate for 20.
And it’s been a major step in my growth to detach from the idea of what yoga “should be” and focus on what it is right now: mine.