Laughing Lotus Yoga School Teacher Training Graduation, May 2005
I've been doing yoga on and off for nine years now. By on and off I mean that I'm either fully immersed in it (and loving every second), or I've fallen into a lazy pattern where I'm longing for it but not doing it. I'm sure there are many things we wish we were doing, but aren't, for whatever reason. Excuses are easy to come by.
Returning to practice has been slow, but steady. It's definitely not a question of soreness or loss of flexibility. It's all in there, written deep into my muscle memories. The interesting part has been acceptance. I was part of a very intense and vibrant yoga community in NYC and have not found its match in my current locale. I've thought that many of the studios I have tried here are not hard enough, not sweaty enough, not challenging enough…
But I realized that none of those things are true. Yoga isn't always exactly what you want it to be. The only consistent thing in your yoga practice (and let's face it, in your life) is YOU. You're the one who is bringing whatever you are bringing onto your mat every time you roll it out. Bringing negative emotions and missed expectations won't improve your practice nor will it encourage you to keep trying.
After my last post about finding and creating community, I couldn't help but draw parallels between the two. If I really think that "just showing up" is important, then I better have that attitude about yoga as well. I've found that the more I show up, the easier it is to let go of my expectations of how I think it's supposed to be. I can feel the resistance begin to break up and reveal new sensations: openness, curiosity, flexibility, adventure!
I find that most yoga classes have lessons in them if you are open to it. This morning was no exception. A typically busy Saturday morning class was presented with new challenges when we had to practice in the smaller of the two studios. A great example of real world collaboration is watching yogis make space for a few more mats in a packed room. It's pretty amazing how there's always just enough room. If you've ever done yoga, you know that the physical practice of yoga is also often about discovering space that you didn't realize was there.
The words that we began class with are what inspired this post in the first place. I think the rushed mat moving and craziness diverted the teacher's intention a little bit, in a good way. She asked us, what does yoga mean? A few people responded with "union" (the literal translation), uniting the mind and body, getting the mind out of the way, etc. The words we landed on that stuck with me were "here" and "now".
TEDxPhilly t-shirt. Design by Sean Martorana, Photo by Kevin Monko.
As I'm currently in a period of reflection and transition, I couldn't help but think about how that's where last year's theme for TEDxPhilly came from. Right Here, Right Now was actually a modified version of Being Present — being in the here and now. Funnily enough, the visual representation of our theme was two right arrows, each above the words Here and Now. If you didn't catch the cleverness of the right arrows (Sean Martorana is a very clever designer!) then you saw it as Here and Now, which in itself, is something.
If you are anything like me, here and now is a place you don't often frequent. Sometimes I think I spend too much time looking back or looking ahead, but definitely not spending enough time in the here and now. It's quite a different picture. My yoga practice is just part of the adventure, writing this blog post is another.
So if I said the other day to just show up, today I'm suggesting (mostly to myself), enjoy the present moment. Take it all in, look at it, laugh at it, and just be all up in it.