Reminders From the Yoga Classroom
Do you remember what it was like to begin your yoga journey? How hard it seemed to allow the mind to become blank? How awkward it was to move with a sense of balance and control? Do you remember what it was like when your ego stepped aside, and you realized your full capacity as a yogi? How relaxed your life had become? After years of practicing yoga, I seemed to have forgotten, or maybe took for granted the struggles of beginning my yoga practice, and the beauty this beginning brought into my life. Luckily, high school students, who I have the pleasure of teaching yoga to three times a week, recently reminded me of this forgotten beauty. I would like to present these to you, so that maybe my remembering and my connection, can lead you to a deeper connection and a longer remembering of why we indeed practice yoga.
The phrase I hear most often in the classroom is “I feel so relaxed!” It’s amazing to see these young yogis walk in distracted and stressed out because of friends, teachers, and coursework, and transform into these calm beings ready to take on the rest of their day. This is the number one reason, for me, that I began seriously practicing yoga. I was stressed, emotional, and constantly suffering from panic attacks. Yoga gave me the tools I needed to control my breath, so I could then control my mind. I see this happening, every day, for these young yogis. I’ve noticed how their fingers used to twitch during svasana, eyes would spring open, the world so obviously a distraction. Now, they lay still, breath coming in quiet rhythm, eyes closed the whole time, completely serene. We practice yoga so that we can leave the world behind. We practice yoga so that we can learn to control the mind and the breath. We practice yoga so that we can finally, find some peace.
I’m sure we yogis can all agree that balance and control are two of the hardest elements to bring into a yoga practice. At some point, we step onto the mat and we are home. We feel at ease. We are balanced and we are in control. These young yogis, are beginning to understand what it means to be balanced and in control, not only on the mat, but off it as well. As they become centered enough to flow through standing balances, holding a plank without holding their breath, and feeling strong and centered in their warriors, they are also becoming strong in the roots of their beings. I see this as they begin to step on their mats, and you can just tell that they are finding a new home to be in. They are beginning to be at ease in their bodies, and they are surely in control of their minds. The energy within them is no longer flighty and afraid, but strong and sure.
Finally, the biggest improvement I’ve noticed in these young yogis, and the biggest reminder for my personal practice is letting the ego go. The first day of class, every student was hyper aware of every other body in the room. You could see plainly that each one of them was more concerned by what the others were doing, rather than what they should be doing themselves. We all find ourselves doing this, maybe not always, but it happens. Watching them let go of the care of being watched, of whether they look silly in the postures, reminds me that indeed my practice is solely that. My practice. My practice doesn’t depend on others accomplishments, or what others think of me. My practice is mine because I work to improve myself each time I step on my mat, and whether it’s a difficult time or an easy one, I know I am always growing and moving forward. This is what these students remind me to be. Open to letting go of what I am, so I can grow into the best version of myself.
Yoga is a way of life. It’s a growing process, a life commitment. We must not forget what it’s like to be a beginner. We must not forget the path that yoga guides us down, and the lessons we learn along the way. We must not take our balance and control for granted. We must not lose sight of our breath. We must acknowledge our ego, and then let it go. In this way we can be both honest and humble in our practice, and in our lives as a whole.