Coffee, Accessibility, Bali, and Connection

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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.

 

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Impermanence: Life’s Fleeting Moments

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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