16 July, 2013

Familiarity breeds contentment

Today was Vinyasa with Sara Helland at Passion Of Movement.

This was the second time this week where I ended up taking a class with Sara because she substituted for someone else on the schedule. As such, she will turn out to be the teacher in Maui with whom I will have taken the most yoga classes. This time around, knowing her style, I was enthusiastic for the class that I expected she would teach. I guess I was caught a little bit in my head the other day trying to figure out what the heck Kripalu yoga was and, ironically, that might have taken me out of the moment. In a way, it might be better to just have a calendar of yoga classes that doesn't even tell you what type of yoga it is other than the level of vigor likely to be involved. And then, you show up, and you do whatever they say. I do pretty well with situations where it is impossible to have expectations. It's when I think I know what to expect, or am very curious about what to expect, that I start becoming obsessed. I suppose that means I get to work on understanding why that is.

Having done the fairly challenging 11 mile hike up Haleakala the previous day, I had some concerns about how yoga was going to feel today. My calves were very sore, and the initial thought of doing Sun Salutations seemed daunting. It turns out, yoga is pretty damn good for resolving these types of muscle soreness and stiffness. Even in that first Downward Dog, it was possible to restore about half the length and ease in my calf muscles that I had lost from the hike. This is why it seems so sad and ironic to me that many people (including myself, for years) will say "I can't do yoga - I am way too tight!" The first step onto a yoga mat involves little more prerequisite than the willingness to experience discomfort, feel like a beginner, be patient with oneself, and to listen, observe, and quiet the mind of all the chatter that comes in such circumstances. Easier said than done in the execution, but the mere willingness is actually a rather binary decision. Either you are, or you are not willing to keep coming back. And, from my experience, I can now say that coming back again and again, a lot happens without us even necessarily realizing that it is happening. Intention sure helps, but much can be learned through osmosis.

Okay, that was a bit of a soapbox tangent.

One thing that's a beauty of a small studio and small classes is that the teacher knows who you are the second time you take their class. There's something so special and important to me about the connection with the teacher, and it's the reason why I prefer yoga over most any other type of exercise I have ever done. While it's true that the "real yoga" (whatever that means) is a very personal experience, and that, ultimately, we must do all the work ourselves, having a guide or guides is very powerful.

I can't even tell you how excited I become when I am planning on taking a class with a teacher that I haven't seen for a while. There's almost a giddy excitement about the upcoming experience, like I'm going to go back to one of my favorite places. And then, there are those teachers who have been so inspirational to me, either now, or in the past, that I have crafted my entire life schedule so that it would be possible to attend their classes every week, often multiple times.

Our teachers are special because of who they are as people. The poses they favor, or the style of yoga they teach is really secondary to this. Who they are makes me feel a certain way when I am in their presence. I get to share a little of that energy, and I feel it grows me. It makes me a better person. And it helps me remember why I do this practice.

Thank you.

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