I had a truly non-yogic moment the other day. I regularly sub a basics level yoga class at one of the studios where I teach. Right before the start of class I sent up a silent prayer than none of the students would be first time yoga students. I was feeling super tired and not up for the challenge of bodies that had never done yoga and struggled to connect my verbal cues with actually moving their bodies. And then I instantly felt like a jerk. Why on earth would I wish to not have first time yoga students in a basics level class? Some of the most magical teaching moments I have had have been with students who have never done yoga before. I have also learned immensely from the first timers in my classes. I started teaching yoga for the sole purpose of sharing something that has helped me in multiple areas in my life. And here I was, silently wishing that a very special group of people, non-yoga practitioners, would be absent from the class I was about to teach. I need a serious attitude adjustment.
One of the students in that class was a man who took yoga with me for the very first time just a few short months ago. I did my best during his first class to help him with variations and props in each pose. He had virtually no flexibility or strength. Downward dog was a near impossibility. He was light years from touching his toes when bending over, dropping his chin to his chest and rolling down two inches caused his knees to buckle and his face and shoulders to tense up. Throughout that class I continuously reminded everyone to breath and let them know their practices where exactly where they were meant to be on that day. I also let them in on what often feels like a big secret because no one talks about it…yoga is hard.
Yoga is not about being able to do really hard, really cool looking poses. The word yoga means union. Yoga is about uniting the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is about connecting deeply with yourself and allowing yourself to feel connected and one with all living beings. That is a very tall order even if you can do a handstand and touch your toes with ease. It was clear to me that I was having a hard time truly living my yoga practice while silently wishing for no first time yoga students in a class. I was not being open-minded or open-hearted, two things that are key in yoga. I needed to take a deep breath, breath is a cornerstone of yoga after all, and really check in with myself. I was being given a beautiful opportunity to share something I love with people. It was my job not to squander that.
After class I had a chat with the student who I have been working with for a few months. I let him know how much improvement I have seen in his physical practice. He was honest, “The first two weeks were really rough. I knew if I didn’t buy a 20 class card I would never come back.” We chatted a little. He shared that his lower back no longer riddles him with pain and his blood pressure has gone down. He also shared how he really struggles with breathing now that he has developed some muscle memory of the poses. I shared that I too struggle with breath and that for me it is the hardest part of my practice, even after all these years. While we were chatting I was reminded of how special yoga really is. It humbles us. It reminds us that we are not perfect. We are continually practicing to become who we truly are deep down at our cores. Yoga also unites us, creating bridges within parts of ourselves and bridges to connect with others. And that is why I teach yoga, to help others find and create those connections.