Yoga Off The Mat

Old Friend

Original post , February 26, 2013

imageAbout a year and a half ago, I made a decision to stop teaching yoga. The decision seemed silly on the surface…”Because you’re stressed, you’re going to quit yoga?” I was in a year of grieving that felt like a weird time warp. Nothing was normal. It seemed I had special permission to do whatever helped me get through. Teaching yoga was a welcomed challenge, but became a stress. I was afraid if I gave it up, I might never go back to it. I made the decision to make the decision for right now. I was not making it for the rest of my life. Just for now. It could mean that I’d never go back. I was not in control of later. I was in control of that present moment. And boy, once I clarified that, I felt so much relief.

Soon after, I attended a yoga class led by one of my favorite instructors and found I could not stay. My heart began to race. I could not believe it–I was having a panic attack in my favorite yoga class! What I did instead was yoga off the mat. I wrote in my journal for the remainder of the class sitting outside of the yoga room at a table by a window, bathed in warm sunlight. It was a letter to my teacher. I left it for her.

A few months later, I saw her at a social event. Though I felt an uncomfortable embarrassment for my uncontrollable anxiety in her class, she treated me like she always had. I finally had to ask her if she received my letter. She said, “Of course I did. And of course you had anxiety! Yoga is about relationship with yourself and that can be quite terrifying!” God do I love her. Permission to be. She taught that to me, again. I hadn’t thought of yoga in those words before. It made perfect sense.

A few ladies came into the spa where I work as a massage therapist and told the hairstylist how they were disappointed I was not teaching yoga as they liked the class very much, had benefited from it, and would she please inform them when I would start teaching again. I thought teaching a small group of women wouldn’t be stressful, so I arranged a Sunday morning class. A “No big deal” sort of approach. That led to a few more folks wanting to come til one Sunday, there was not enough space in the small room I was using. Since turning someone away from a yoga class in Downeast Maine is unheard of, I had to find a bigger space, pronto. So I did. Still no big deal.

And so it began. I was teaching again. Yoga and I were friends again. We met most every Sunday from late-winter to late-autumn, until the floor of the community center became too cold. Now we have a small intimate circle that still meets in the home of one of the participants.

My sweet yoga–a story always waiting to unfold. So often I whine and procrastinate about doing it. I set high expectations. I judge myself. I judge it, thinking I should be doing something else like a rigorous walk or weight lifting. All these reactions to yoga keep me from a better story that awaits me. I heard that story this past Sunday as I glanced at the faces in our small winter yoga group. Prayer hands descended to hearts in a pause. Eyes closed. Cheeks and foreheads void of tension, indicating to me some inner peaceful inquiry going on. I was honored to have this space and time we set aside for us every Sunday. That we could feel so safe to all go inside ourselves, following the Kripalu vinyasa CD we’d been practicing for at least two months together. Only today, I followed along with them, instead of being the teacher. The story I heard was I loved being the student.

I need some time again to be the student. To not teach. I need to be emptied, filled, fueled, quieted, and challenged beyond what I know. I know I will be back because I love yoga too much to not want to share it.

Namaste. See you soon. 🙂

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