Full disclosure: I spent the last week at the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina, soaking in the sunshine, connecting with family & doing a little yoga on the beach. In the midst of bonding was a fun afternoon of Beer Olympics. It began with Dizzy Bat. For those uninitiated, this is a relay game that requires you to do 5 quick spins around a bat before running to tag a teammate. And yes, one minute into Dizzy Bat, I face-planted in the sand and my hamstring was unforgiving. I felt like Kerri Strug without the gold medal. As you can see, I did not have the grace of Kerri:
The intensity of the hot room can stir people in many ways, not just their bodies but minds as well and yoga has a way of giving you just what you need if you look hard enough.
When I entered the studio, I was greeted by a number of fellow yogis. I felt immediate connection. I was relishing these kind people when I stumbled across someone who was obviously new.
Standing next to me at the desk, he ragged on the staff person about an unanswered phone call and his need to arrive early to class, etc. I turned to him and teased him, saying that the yoga was definitely something he could use to take the edge off. He seemed to soften ever so slightly.
I could feel an intensity coming from him that made my body tense. I knew I could go in the hot room and sweat that out quickly. But I wondered about the cost of breathing out constant anger and rage. All I could see was that every time this guy spewed out the anger, he breathed it right back in. Watching him made it so clear: when we allow ourselves to wallow in negative, pessimistic places, we are truly doing most harm to ourselves.
I was dying to watch his experience unfold. The hot room can overwhelm and the intensity of the poses can humble the best athlete pretty quickly. At the same time, the focus required can quiet negativity and soothe the most savage of beasts.
I settled myself in the room, hamstring ready for healing. Rebecca was our instructor -- she has a warm, supportive way about her. And this is how it went:
The newbie's practice started out shaky. He grumbled about where he was to be in the room. And about 2/3 through class--in the middle of camel pose--he grabbed his mat, towel and keys and clambered out of the room. I was annoyed at his noisy departure and curious about what that all meant.
When class ended, I saw him sprawled out on a sofa—sweaty and shirtless and chatting with Rebecca. I thought for sure he was hating life. Surprisingly, he was feeling relaxed.
I was more than a little floored: 1. I had assumed from the get-go that he would not be open to the yoga & 2. that Rebecca offered him so much. I asked her how she dealt with people who came to class with a hardness and she talked about being flexible and in tune with where they were coming from.
Many instructors might have pushed him to stay in the room, to conform, etc, but Rebecca said that her whole objective was to help him find what yoga had to offer him. She wanted his experience to make him come back and after talking with him, she knew he would. She got it. The yoga was not about her or her ego, it was about sharing something that brought her clarity and peace.
What Rebecca was modeling was about flexibility, but not just in contorting your body in different poses, but in your mind in allowing someone to become someone you may not expect, and making room for them to do it in a non-traditional way. She concluded that if this new yogi’s departure from the room was intrusive or obnoxious to the other yogis, that they would make it part of their practice. She also saw past the prickly side of this new guy and realized that maybe some of it was anxiety in starting his practice.
And that is what yoga teaches me—and it ‘s often not what I expect when I go in the room—but yoga teaches me to confront those things in my life that may be difficult and to breath through them… that the hard stuff passes and it does get easier. That the energy you put out in the world, does come back to you. And that you can never put anyone in a box, not even yourself, because we are all full of surprises.
I felt even more connected when I left the studio this morning. My hamstring still ached, it will heal—but the warmth in my heart felt great—not because of this newbie that had a good first practice, but because I am surrounded by others who are compassionate, caring and genuine and being with these people –the Rebeccas of the studio just make me a better person and I can spread the love. Breathe joy today! Namaste.’