Attuning is defined as making aware, or making harmonious or balanced. As children, everyone is connected so closely to their inner Self. They are attuned to their body and mind. Some say babies are connected to the Divine or Universe or Supreme Consciousness. But as babies get older the connection to this inner knowledge slowly breaks down. Maybe this is because as the child gets older other parts of the brain develop, like the neocortex, or maybe it’s because children are taught by caregivers and society to ignore messages from their body and mind.
Something I notice, as a yoga teacher, is this lack of attunement. As students enter the room I like to check in with them by asking how they are feeling (mental/emotional check in) and how their body is feeling (physical check in). The answer I get most often when I ask how someone is feeling is “Good.” Sometimes that is how the person is feeling. They’ve had a “good” day, but more often than not it’s just an automatic response. The majority of time when I inquire about their body I get an answer like, “My shoulder/low back hurts, but I’ll deal with it.” Another thing that has been slowly increasing during classes is the checking of smartwatches. People are so driven to be connected with external sources that they will sacrifice another person’s chance to draw inward.
In my classes, I’ve been encouraging students to tune in with themselves multiple times during their practice. There’s the initial tuning in, then a couple-few times after movement, and a final moment at the end of class. I’ve been doing this because our physical, mental, and emotional states are in a constant state of ebb and flow. There’s not one feeling throughout a single day, and if something does go wrong we have the choice to continue focusing on it even if the issue has been resolved or to move on to the next feeling.
In addition to asking students how they feel, after they’ve checked in a few times I’ve asked them to notice if they need to change something to honor what is happening — do they need a break, do they need a sip of water, do they need to reconnect with their breath, etc.
I challenge you to skip checking Facebook a handful of times today and instead check yourself. Ask yourself the general attunement question, “How do I feel right now; pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral?” At each check in notice if your answer changed from the previous check in(s). Maybe the first few times you ask this question you don’t know the answer. That’s okay. Like with most things in life and yoga, it might take time. Be kind and patient as you begin to relearn your body and mind’s language. Once you are able to tune in with how you are feeling maybe you can become aware of what change(s) may or may not need to be made.
Give it a try, and if you want feel free to leave a comment with your observations.
For quite a while now, I have been wanting to do a series of posts on self-care. However, I have also been hesitant about this idea. My intention with these posts is to provide readers with ideas for different ways to care for themselves. These posts are not meant to say one thing is better than another, and these posts are not meant to be the “be all and end all” of self-care. I think there is a real lack of self-care in people’s lives. For many, they feel self-care is selfish. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Showing oneself love, kindness, and compassion allows that person to show love, kindness, and compassion to others.
What the heck is self-care?
Self-care is the care for oneself, according to Merriam-Webster, but so many of us still don’t know what that means. Self-care is the practices, activities, and routines that support ones physical, mental, and emotional health. It is what refuels, rather than takes away.
Like I mentioned above, many people have come to think self-care is something selfish. As in, “How dare you take time for yourself to fill your figurative cup of well-being, instead of continuing to give all of your energy to beings, even when you no longer have any energy to give!” Self-care is actually quite the opposite of selfishness. By taking care of ones needs and refueling themselves the person is then able to take better care of others. Our world must be quite ill for self-care to be considered a negative thing.
How does someone practice self-care?
Here are some tips for practicing self-care.
Actively pursue it. Schedule it. Write it on the calendar. Block out time for yourself.
Have a clear intention that this is for your well-being. If you’re just doing something without a clear intention, then the result won’t be very fulfilling.
Figure out what you like and dislike. There’s no point in doing something you don’t like, even if the internet says you should do it. Not everyone has the same needs so test out different things to find what works for you.
With all of that being said, self-care is not always a “pretty” thing like bath bombs and coffee dates. Sometimes it’s looking at failures, re-evaluating, and trying again, if necessary. Sometimes it’s disappointing others by saying no to something. But most of all, self-care isn’t about fixing oneself. The focus is on taking care of oneself, and it is a necessary and essential thing for a balanced life.
My goal is to post a different method of self-care each Sunday creating a series of offerings to readers. These offerings will range from taking a bath to movement to stepping away from something negative. I’m quite excited for this series, and I hope you are, too. If you ever have a suggestion or have a self-care practice you love and would like me to share, please leave a comment and I will do my best to add it to my list.
Spring is a time of birth or rebirth. Summer is growth and maturity. Fall welcomes the preparation of rest, release, and death. Winter is stillness and space, the in between.
It’s in this space people begin to reflect on events that happened throughout the year. This reflection is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows people to see the changes and evolution that took place. But during this reflection, especially as the New Year draws closer, people start to dwell on their “failures,” their “inadequacies,” their “not good enoughs.” It’s here people get caught up with their thoughts. People allow their time to be consumed by these thoughts, and it becomes addictive. I don’t know if we, as humans, are wired to focus on what we consider bad, or if over time we’ve trained ourselves to do this, but as we get stuck on these negative thoughts we start to develop methods of punishment so we don’t “fail” again.
We typically disguise this punishment as New Year’s Resolutions, i.e. start a new diet, lose an unattainable amount of weight, workout eight days a week. We set a bar so high that accomplishment is impossible. Then the cycle continues when we inevitably cannot put a check mark next to an item on our to do list. Our struggle with negative thoughts and resolutions isn’t helped by the bombardment of “New Year, New You” advertisements or social media posts. You are enough as you are. You cannot change your Self.
What if instead of focusing on the negative we choose to be grateful for the positive or the lessons learned from negative experiences? What if instead of punishing ourselves for our “shortcomings” and focusing on removing something we set an intention for what we would like to gain or focus on in the new year?
My intention and focus is Acceptance, Organization, and Self-Care. You are welcome to share in this intention, if it resonates with you.
Welcome to 2018. May everyone find peace, love, and happiness throughout the year.
Yoga is described as a journey of the self through the self to the self. This is done through physical movement, meditation, sensory deprivation, ethical living, etc. The first step of the journey is through ethical living, and the guidelines for ethical living are called Yamas and Niyamas. Within each guideline is a set of rules or commandments, so to speak.
The focus of this post is truthfulness, which is the Yama known as Satya. “Sat” means “true essence,” “true nature,” “unchangeable.” The practice of Satya is being true and consistent with reality in ones thoughts, speech, and actions. Our thoughts, speech, and actions are interchangeable and tend to be a result of how we feel in a particular moment, a result of primitive thinking, rather than seeing things for how they really are, the unchanging truth. Usually the reaction within a moment comes from a place of fear and conditioning. Thoughts, ways of speaking, and actions are influenced and conditioned by our life experiences such as events, trauma, and relationships.
How does one practice Satya?
First of all, in order to be honest with others we must first be honest with ourselves. It’s typical for people to identify with judgments. For instance, “I am a bad person…,” “I am not in a good mood…,” “I have a bad shoulder so I just deal with it.” These judgment usually arise in the moment and we attach to them. In order to detach from irrational thoughts or feelings offer yourself some space and stillness. Allow yourself to slow down and sit in observation of your thoughts. One way is to observe each thought as it comes up, offer a polite greeting, then watch each thought pass by, as if you are passing someone kindly on a street or watching cars drive by.
However, sometimes a thought or feeling sticks around or continues to come up. In that instance, allow yourself to analyze the thought or feeling. Instead of letting it multiple and grow into this mass of irrational thinking, ask yourself questions. “Why does this thought keep showing up?” “Why does it show during this particular scenario?” “Why do I feel this way?” Begin to dismantle the thought, gently and non-judgmentally taking it apart so you can arrive at the root of the thought or feeling, the truth.
This practice of observing thoughts can be done with regards to other people. Watch your thoughts as they come up. Analyze the recurring thoughts or feelings. Come to the truth about why you feel or think that way toward that person or group of people.
As you start move away from fear based thinking and feeling you can start to live and speak your truth. Allowing your entire self to be seen by everyone and voicing your needs. Speaking the truth can be just as difficult as, if not more difficult than, observing thoughts and feelings. When one is speaking it is easy to state an opinion or judgment. “I don’t like the way you fill the dishwasher.” “I can’t believe you are wearing that dress. It’s so ugly.”
Satya is the second Yama. It follows the first, and most important, Yama, which is Ahimsa (non-violence). In speaking our truth we must also practice Ahimsa. This means we must try to speak in a way that will not hurt ourselves or others. This requires us, again, to slow down and observe what is happening. A way to practice non-violent speech is Non-Violent Communication. Non-Violent Communication (NVC) is observing thoughts and feelings, creating a dialogue, and expressing needs in a way that contains compassion and truth. For instance, you come home and your partner forgot she had a cup of milk on the side table and one of the dogs had gotten on the furniture to get the cup, which resulted in milk spilled on the rug. A lot of thoughts are probably popping into your head, “I can’t believe she left a cup out again! Our dog is in so much trouble! This is ridiculous! I just got home and I have to deal with this crap!” Instead of immediately reacting and coming to your partner with all of these thoughts in your head, give yourself some time to slow down, breathe, and start to observe. Start the conversation by making a non-judgmental observation, “There is milk on the floor.” Then consider and state your feelings, “I am frustrated.” Followed by stating your needs, “I need to come home from work to an orderly space so I can relax.” Then make a request, “Would you be more conscious of where you leave things?”
This type of dialogue will result in less arguments, people will be more willing to accommodate your requests when you approach them in a calmer manner, and you will have spoken your actual truth. This can be used in all kinds of scenarios with all kinds of people. I try to use NVC when speaking to my classes. I recently had two very full classes. One being 36 out of 41 spots filled and 34 out of 35 spots for the other. I become very nervous and very concerned with student safety in classes that full because students only have about a block width between them and each person around them. I handle this by stating the obvious fact, “Wow! There are a lot of people here today!” Then I express something like, “I am so excited to have all of you! I’m also a little concerned about safety.” Followed by my needs and request, which is typically, “I need to create a safe space for each student, and because there are so many of you I need your help with that. My first request is you become and remain conscious of those around you. I’ve literally been kicked in the face while taking a class. It’s not fun to have someone’s foot touch your face. [pause for laughter] My second request is you refrain from doing particularly complex postures, like handstand. Save those for another time, please.” It is incredibly rare for a student to not honor these requests.
Keep in mind observing thoughts and feelings is a difficult task. People are used to having a constant monologue of self-talk in their heads. People are used to reacting from an emotional place. Know there may be times that you are trip up and cause yourself or someone else pain. It happens. In those instances, offer a heartfelt apology, then keep going. This is one of the reasons why Yoga is a practice.
Balance is something everyone strives for. In Yoga the concept of energy management or balancing energy is the Yama known as Brahmacharya. Older texts will describe this as continence or celibacy and relate it to sexual energy. Modern texts speak to this concept as the right use of energy or the prioritization of energy. That’s what this post will be speaking to because there are so many things that effect energy.
Humans are no longer tied to the rise and fall of the sun. We can make our spaces as bright or as dark as we want whenever we want. We can wake up and go to sleep at any time. Our work days are no longer determined by how much light is available. The options for activity are endless.
If you are noticing your energy feels off, but not sure why, and looking to create balance in your life, consider the following.
Contemplate how you actually use and direct your energy.
Sit down and actually think about where you are spending your energy. Think on the macro scale so things like work, commuting, relationships, etc. Make a pie chart if you need a visual. Notice the different things you are directing your energy toward. Which of them are external desires, things that are awesome at the time, but are ultimately fleeing? Which of them are internal desires, things that help cultivate peace and happiness within you? How can you redirect some of your energy from external desires to internal desires?
Listen to your body and mind.
Everyone has intuition, but a major problem is we’ve been taught to ignore it. The body will tell you many things if you’ll only listen. Some days the body might request intense movement like a power yoga class or 5 mile run. Other days it might be needing something gentler like yin or restorative yoga or a walk through the park. Think about this in terms of food as well. Have you ever ignored your body’s messages that is was full and kept eating? Or what about messages that it’s hungry? Do you ever eat anything that in the moment is amazing, but later it feels like a brick in your stomach, your abdomen is painfully bloated, and the mind is foggy? Do you ever consume food that is delicious in the moment and continues to not only fuel your body, but also makes the body and mind feel healthy?
Review your calendar.
Sometimes a full calendar is not the best thing. Become aware of daily activities that are draining your energy. Ask yourself if you can change or cancel some of these things, and in place schedule time for yourself. Do you need to binge Netflix late into each night? What if you watched one less episode and got more sleep? It’s okay to give yourself a moment or two to slow down, catch your breath, rest, and find some peace.
How do you know when your energy is being depleted? How does your body feel? What about your mind? In what ways do you manage your energy?
At the moment I am participating in an online course called Manifest: A Corse About Standing in Your Power hosted by Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga and Kelley Carboni-Woods, author of Manifest: 30 Days of Intentional Mantras. The course is a practice of self-exploration to build trust with ones self and stand in ones power. Each week we are given two mantras for reflection and two asana practices that correspond with each mantra.
The first mantra of Manifest was, “I nourish myself with the best.” Typically, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about nourishment is food. The body derives nutrients from the food and drink consumed to help it function and sustain life. But what comes to mind if you look beyond what you eat? We nourish ourselves with quality of the media we choose, the music we listen to, the activities we participate in, and the people we interact with. Personally, I find nourishment through reading, creating art, moving my body, taking naps, snuggling my dogs, and spending quality time with my boyfriend. However, I think nourishment goes even further than just what we take in. I think it also involves what is released.
Think about the thoughts, events, people, feelings, etc. that you might continue to harbor negativity toward. Are you someone who holds a grudge? I certainly was. Are you someone who revisits some past event and replays it differently in your head so there is a different outcome? Again, I was. What does holding on to all of that do for you, especially if it is something that happened years ago? Holding on to all of the negativity not only gives that person/event/thought/feeling power and control over you, but it takes up space that could be used for something else, something more positive and productive. Lessons can be learned and growth can be produced from certain situations, but once that has happened let the negative go. Granted that is easier said than done in many cases and can take a long time to happen. Keep in mind it doesn’t mean you have to forgive and forget.
I held a lot of anger toward someone for many years. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized it didn’t serve me to be angry. It wasn’t going to change the past, and it drained my energy, which took away from the important things in my life. While I may not have necessarily forgiven this person, I have been able to release my anger toward them. This has allowed me to see some of the growth this person has gone through, as well as see this person as an actual person.
Allowing the negative to be released clears up space for you to take in nourishment from the things that light up your soul. It allows you to give energy to the things you enjoy, rather than to the things that bring you discomfort, pain, heartache. Offer yourself the best quality nourishment you can because you deserve it. You deserve to be filled with positivity. For it’s this positive energy that allows us to share the best parts of ourselves with the world.
Do you agree with the idea that nourishment can come from letting something go? In what ways, do you find provide yourself the best nourishment? If you are holding on to something negative, will you consider or work toward letting it go?
At least once a week, a student will either say to me before class something about being very sore or having an injury and following that statement with something like, “So please don’t be upset if I don’t do some things or change things,” or a student will come up to me after class and apologize for not doing everything I offered or for modifying postures. I usually follow these statements by asking them why should I be mad about them listening to their body. As a yoga teacher, I love when students know their limits and respect their bodies, whatever that looks like in that moment.
There’s this idea about students having to mimic a teacher exactly or doing every single posture given, and I say (warning adult language) a big, “Fuck that,” to this concept. As a child I developed knee issues shortly before I turned 11 years old. It started with an osteochondroma, a benign tumor on the growth plate of my right knee, then several boughts of bursitis, Osgood-Schlatter Disease, and Runner’s Knee. I also suffered a break of the talus bone in my right ankle at the end of my freshman year in high school. I was lucky to have a dance teacher who taught me to listen to my body, and at times who made me take breaks or would change choreography because I was stubborn and would ignore what my body’s demands to take it easier. She taught me, maybe unknowingly, that poses and movements can be tailored to suit the body performing said poses and movements. For me, I believe there is not a single perfect pose that everyone needs to strive toward. Instead, I believe each individual body has a perfect pose for each individual moment.
One day I had experienced a student talking poorly of their practice. I had commented how I love to watch her practice, and she immediately replied trying to be tongue in cheek with, “Because it’s so lazy?” I was taken aback. No, her practice was wonderful because she listened. She modified. She moved with ease. She took breaks when she needed them. A day or two after that encounter I found myself reading How Yoga Works by Michael Roach, when I came across a paragraph that helped affirm my belief.
It was during an exchange between Friday, a female traveler who was jailed and acting as the local yoga teacher, and the small son of the jail’s sergeant, Ajit. Friday wants Ajit to teach the other boys that day. Ajit agrees saying he’d teach the boys giving and taking, breathing, etc., then get Friday when it’s time for the poses. Friday makes it clear she wants Ajit to teach everything, including the poses. Ajit quickly says he can’t because he has a crippled leg and can’t do the poses perfectly himself. Friday is quick to reprimand him, gently.
“I took his scarred cheek in my palm, and he let me, innocently — did he know it already looked better? ‘There’s something you have to understand, Ajit. It’s very simple and very true. A pose isn’t supposed to look like anything. Nobody can do a pose so it looks perfect. A pose is perfect only when you are doing the very best you can –gazing steadily, breathing sweetly, and thinking of how it will help someone else. And I watch you every day, doing lots of these perfect poses. And that’s the kind of poses I want our wonderful boys to learn.'”(How Yoga Works)
If you are planning on apologizing to me or any other instructor, then stop and ask yourself the following questions first. Did you breathe consciously, sweetly, actively? Did you focus and use your drishti? Did you think of how this might help someone else? Did you do your best in that moment? If so, then you have nothing to apologize for. If not, you still don’t need to apologize to me. Take a breath, release judgement, and move on.
Maybe it’s because I’m leading a workshop designed for beginning yogis or maybe the Universe is just trying my teacher patience, but etiquette, sometimes lack thereof, has been showing up a lot lately in quite a few of my studio classes. As a yoga teacher, I try to provide a safe, supportive, and respectful space for students to practice in.
For anyone new to yoga or new to practicing in a studio here are some things to be conscious and aware of in class. For anyone currently practicing at a studio this is your friendly, not-so-subtle reminder about respecting the yoga space, your practice, and the practice of others in the room. Keep in mind each studio has its own culture. Therefore some of these may not apply or they might have even more rules for etiquette.
Be in the room at the scheduled start time for class. Or better yet, be in the room early!
Getting to class early allows you time to actually set up your space and settle yourself before class begins. Sometimes things happen, like traffic, and it’s difficult to get to class early. If that’s the class try to be in the practice room at the time class is scheduled to start. The instructor can always give announcements while you are getting settled. Another tip is to call the studio if you are running late. In some cases, the instructor can set up a spot (mat and props) for you so all you have to do is quickly come in while they are giving announcements.
Entering the practice space after class has started causes a few issues. First, it’s distracting for everyone involved. There is no possible way for this to not distract the other students and the teacher. It’s like trying to open a potato chip bag in a quiet room. Second, if the class has already gone through their warm up you are putting yourself at risk of becoming injured because you have not given yourself ample time to warm up. Third, depending on the class type or size there’s a possibility of getting kicked in the face or accidentally knocking into someone potentially causing harm to you, someone else, or both.
Avoid flopping your mat down.
Other students are trying to get settled and center before class. When someone drops or flops their mat on the floor it creates an unnecessary distraction and throws off other students’ peace of mind.
Unvelcro your mat strap before entering the room.
Similar to #2. Try to create as little noise as possible when getting yourself set up for class. For some people this class might be their only quiet time or personal time that day or week. Be respectful of that concept.
If it isn’t yoga related, then don’t bring it in the room.
This includes cell phones. Personally, I prefer when students leave watches, fitness trackers, and smart watches outside the room, as well. Part of practicing yoga is removing distractions. How can you have a distraction-free practice if you are worried your phone might go off in class or when you are texting on your smart watch during Savasana?
NO shoes in the room!
Do not wear your shoes into the practice space. Depending on the flooring in the studio, shoes can actually mess up the floor. It creates an unhygienic practice area. Keep in mind hands, feet, and faces all end up near or against the floor at some point. Studios work incredibly hard to keep the practice space floors clean to make sure students stay healthy. I know this can be hard at smaller studios. Believe me. I’ve practiced at a studio where you open the door and you are in the practice space and cubbies were all the way across the room in a separate space. Take your shoes off the moment you walk in and carry them to the cubbies. Easy peasy.
The only time it is acceptable to wear shoes into the room is if you have a medical condition, i.e. plantar fasciitis. In that case, bring a second pair of shoes to class that is dedicated only to being worn in the studio – something that is never worn outside or anywhere else.
If you think you will be tempted to talk to your neighbor during class, then place your mat elsewhere.
Sometimes friends, colleagues, or partners will go to class together. I know it’s tempting to talk during class, especially the first class, because it’s something new and weird, and nervousness is pouring from you and it’s manifesting in an urge to talk. But please don’t do it. In fact, just put your mat somewhere away from your buddy if you think either of you will be tempted to talk.
Do NOT place your hands on another student!
You’ve convinced your partner to come try yoga. You get everything set up while your partner is filling out their liability waiver or changing in the locker room. Class starts. Everything is going peachy, then the first Downward Facing Dog arrives and you decide to get off your mat and “adjust” your partner. (Yes, this has happened in a class before.) As a teacher, this is the fastest way for me to go from being nice to flames in my eyes and smoke coming out of my ears. DO. NOT. TOUCH. SOMEONE. ELSE. You are responsible for you. Unless you attending an integrated accessible yoga class as someone’s caretaker and are being employed to assist them through the class then DO NOT PLACE YOUR HANDS ON ANOTHER PERSON! Don’t do it. Ever. I’m sure your intentions are good, but forcing someone’s body into a shape it’s not used to making is a great way for them to get injured. If you think you might be tempted to touch them, then see the suggestion in #6 – put your mat elsewhere.
Stay the entire time.
Please, please, please stay the entire time. Savasana (Corpse Pose) is essential to the practice. It allows students to practice letting go of the grasp on thoughts and observe them entering and exiting the mind as they please. If you aren’t quite ready to practice thought control, then think of it like a cool down for any other physical activity. It lets the body calm and relax and the practice integrate with the body. This allows the body to reap maximum benefits and decrease the risk of injury.
This list and my thoughts might seem a little harsh, but these are all things I’ve experienced as a teacher and as a student. These are things I’ve had students complain about or wish would be practiced more often. The studio space may be just a workout space for some, and that’s fine, but the studio space is also a sacred space for others. No matter your reason for coming to a studio, please respect the space and the people you share it with.
If you practice at a studio, what are some other guidelines you wish others would respect? Do you try to practice all of those listed above? Maybe you are someone who unconsciously does one of the things listed about, would you be willing to make a conscious effort to do something different? Leave you comments or insights!
Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my lovely friends for coffee. She’s also a yoga teacher. A little about my friend, she teaches weekly classes at a couple of studios, goes into a local prison to teach inmates, teaches life skills and yoga classes with inmates about to be released, and teaches yoga at a shelter for women recovering from violence, addiction, and sexual exploitation. She is one of my favorite people, and it had been a month since we’d seen each other. So much had happened in a matter of four weeks. Time to connect was definitely needed!
As we sit down, we’re both so excited about what the other has going on in their lives. I’ve been diving deeper into my passion of body positivity, inclusivity, and accessibility of yoga. She’s been traveling. First a yoga retreat in Aruba then a trip to Mexico with friends, and soon…Bali.
We go back and forth between our desires, dreams, goals, etc. She’s decided to ask herself if she could do anything without having to worry about anyone or anything else what would that be. She wants to immerse herself into her study of yoga so she can go further into her teaching. She’s found, what sounds to be, an amazing school in Bali that aligns so much with who she is. She’s also allowing herself to be open to possibility. While she has a ticket back to the States, she might take some extra time to travel to neighboring countries before returning home. But only time will tell. A hope of hers is to apply new teachings and a new understanding of herself to her work serving the under-served.
I, on the other hand, am staying put. I’ve recently completed a training called Yoga for All, in which I learned how to teach open-minded classes that are accessible to students of all body sizes, shapes, types, and abilities. In the near future, I am hoping to offer a workshop focusing on body image and yoga. As part of my teaching philosophy, I wholeheartedly believe every single person who wants to have a yoga practice can have a one, regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, size, shape, income, and whatever else. Unfortunately, yoga is quite exclusive, but I’m hoping to add my voice to choir of those fighting for inclusivity.
Although, her path and mine appear to be quite different from the outside, I really don’t think they are. I think our end game is the same. What I see is two teachers looking to create deeper connections with themselves so they can connect more fully with others, especially those who are “unseen.” I’m going to miss my friend so much while she’s gone, but I am so excited for the moment when our paths will cross again and we get to reconnect…hopefully, with coffee.
Recently, I’ve been granted an opportunity to inherit classes at a local studio. This particular studio has values that align well with my teaching philosophy, and there is diversity among the students, which I rarely get to see. Excitedly, I accepted the studio owner’s offer to take on these classes.
The particular teacher I was inheriting the classes from had been with the studio since the first location opened four years ago. The students love her, and I can’t say I blame them. I was able to take a class with her before she left, and she is quite lovely. As I was preparing for my first night of classes I kept remembering the words of one of my teachers who recently moved away. When she announced she was leaving she said, “When a teacher leaves that is the Universe saying you’ve learned all you can from them in this moment, and the Universe is making space for a new teacher to come in with new lessons.” This kept sticking with me, but I couldn’t quite pin-point other ways to express this idea. I didn’t want these yogis to think I was humble bragging or coming in with this gigantic ego to teach them The Yoga.
I decided to put my teacher’s words down in my journal and re-focus on my sequences for the night. For whatever reason, I decided to start listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons – which is wonderful by the way – while I was working. I got through the first three episodes before I had to teach some other classes. That night during the drive to the new studio I turned the podcast back on. The concept of episode four was Impermanence, and the light bulb clicked in my head. This is what I needed to share with my new students! This is what I was looking for!
Impermanence. This idea that everything is in a constant state of flux. Elizabeth states an insightful observation, “The beautiful and equally terrible thing about our lives is that nothing remains the same.” Which is so very true and amazing, and yet so heartbreaking. We go through our lives wanting the beauty to last forever, and the bitter to leave immediately. For these students, they were in a very bittersweet moment of having lost this teacher they clearly love and having to go through the change of a new teacher coming in. Obviously, I can’t take her place because I’m not her, but having gone through a similar situation I can relate to how they felt, which I hope was a reassurance to the students.
This idea of impermanence brought up ideas of earthwork, artwork created with materials found in nature and are meant to deteriorate and return to nature over time. I spoke to this idea of creating impermanent art. That our mats are blank canvases each time we roll them out. Our bodies create the art as we connect with ourselves and move. Some days the art might be messy. Other days the art might be soft and elegant, but once we roll up our mat the art is gone. So if it’s a “bad” day put it all out on the mat and release it because it’s not serving a purpose to hold on to the negativity. If it’s a good day enjoy the feelings and file them away in the heart space. Even though our canvas is washed clean each time we complete a practice what we can take with us is the lessons we learned in that instance.
Going forward I know I’ll be trying to keep this idea of impermanence with me. Nothing can last forever. Although, we can’t keep the sweetness we can hold on to the memories of it and return to them as needed. And while we can’t make the bitter end a quickly as we might like we can choose to release what it brings up for us. In both instances, there are lessons to be learned.
As the students were leaving class one of them said to me, “You are no longer the new girl,” which was so true. In an instant I went from the new teacher to just their teacher. I’ve filed away the excitement and warm feelings I had while teaching those first classes with them, but I’m glad to no longer be the “new girl.”
“Impermanence is the soul of the universe.” – Rob Bell, Magic Lessons, Season 1, Episode 4