Lately, several students have come up to me commenting how they didn’t realize they had a certain injury, how they heard a new word in the dialogue for the first time, how childhood issues surface. While each student seemed surprised by their insight, none of them seemed overwhelmed or consumed by the arising issue. In fact, in all my years of teaching, such discoveries frequently surface from the point of view of having been there already. Yoga, I have said to many, is a truth-teller. It will bring whatever is going on within to the surface fairly quickly and invite you to tend to it. But, you need to SEE it first!
I recently read that the Universe only knows truth. This is a comforting idea when facing conflict in our personal and collectives worlds– the truth will eventually sift out. Humanity’s purpose is to grow and expand, so it’s nice to know that if truth succeeds, then at least we’re rising with integrity.
From the teaching podium, I’m lucky to see the most beautiful moments. Almost daily, I get to see you students use your courage, determination, patience, willpower, and concentration to do all that is asked of you. You all do it with genuine, full-bodied intention to the best of your ability. I bet you any yoga teacher in any discipline sees the same. Yet, there is way more to the story.
In our case, it’s 90 minutes in a hot room, 26 postures done twice, usually in a packed room. The class bombards us with instructions, corrections, students falling in and out of poses, students wiping sweat, drinking water, sitting down, laying down, and moving with or without the group. As the teacher, you are watching able-bodied spines backbend, stiffer spines moving more slowly, injured students cautiously adapting, strong bodies muscling through holding their breath, students practicing safely, to students struggling to pay attention despite English being their second language. And so on. Yet a good teacher sees beyond those surface distractions– that everyone worked so hard and the energy of the class was great.
Lessons from a Fairytale
It’s like the story of Cinderella. Most of the story revolves around the wicked sisters and the drama they create. It’s not until the very end you see the Prince placing the glass slipper on the girl of his heart. Yet, if asked about the story of Cinderella, we don’t recall the sinister schemes and other drama that is a large part of the story. Most of us remember the love we feel for Cinderella, her triumph in getting the Prince. The dominant storyline shifts to the more important truth, the more important meaning.
Yoga class is much the same. We come away acknowledging the “truth” of what is going on “in” there both in the class and in you. Zip codes, job titles, gender preferences, skin color, voting issues, family status, religious beliefs no longer matter. They are insignificant details that surround the makings of the real, truer story.
Seizing the Opportunity
So it is with each of us. The yoga won’t let you mistake the periphery that is you! Instead, you’ll practice, right away discovering the truth of yourself and who you are! In time, you add to your story but without dismissing the central theme that is YOU. Knowing this, it’s not surprising that you will discover a past struggle, a long-ago injury, or wake up to a new concept from the dialogue. These struggles, these discoveries, come not from a place of control but from the spirit of exploration. They are an opportunity to learn, not a reason to despair.
I hope you’ll join me in coming to the USA Yoga West Coast Superregional Yoga Asana Championships on Saturday, May 20th. We will be hosting it at Archbishop Mitty High School in the beautiful Thomas Kinkade Performing Arts Center. You’ll witness what I get to witness teaching on the podium as competitors share their practice and their story through six postures in three minutes. You will see other parts of the story but the one you will hold onto is how inspiringly they exhibit willpower, concentration, self-control, patience and faith both on the stage and within themselves – the real story.
See you there and see you in class!