What a day of listening to my life!

This morning (in my daily inspirational reading ritual) I happened to flip open Rolf Gates’ Meditations from the Mat to an entry on brahmacharya, the fourth yama or foundation of yoga practice, and it had to do with a broader interpretation of the word to mean “moderation”. Rolf talked about how we often attach to doing our yoga at a certain studio, with a certain teacher, at a certain time, using a certain mat, in order to feel we’ve accomplished something in our practice. He suggests that the observation of moderation in our approach to yoga could mean greater flexibility in our practice. He also related brahmacharya to the concept of vairagya or non-attachment.

Interesting, I thought. Then I went about the rest of my morning, and when it was time to leave the house for my normal yoga class at 10:30, I did. I remembered that there were some slight schedule changes since the studio moved recently, but I was already driving and didn’t want to pull over to check the internet on my Blackberry. I just went with it to see what would happen.

Turns out the schedule DID change, and in “my” class time slot, there is now a “Beginner’s Yoga” class, taught by a new instructor. It also started 15 minutes later. The owner, knowing I was a regular at the old class, said, “Oh, I’m sorry, you know we changed the schedule, right? I’m so sorry.” Part of me was thinking, “Oh, should I leave then?” but the other part of me felt like I had created the space for yoga, I had already driven down here, and I should just stay. I was debating this in my mind as I walked through the studio. The instructor, sitting in meditation, looked up and started talking to me. Something clicked in that moment that YES, I was going to stay.

It occurred to me that we create arbitrary labels, like “Beginner’s Yoga”, as a way of filtering for certain populations to come to those classes. What does it say to me when I read, “Beginner’s” or “Advanced”? Do I feel fear that I won’t be able to “keep up” with the class? Or that it will be “too easy” or “too hard” for me?

I knew that yoga is yoga, and my practice is my practice, regardless of who the instructor is or what the poses are. I of course deeply appreciate my regular teacher, whose voice, energy, and way of approaching the poses is endlessly fascinating for me.

But today I also realized the value of opening to possibility. The first great moment was when the first student walked in, seeing me seated in cross-legged position, and said, “This IS the Beginner’s class, right?” Our instructor said, “Yes, it is! Welcome!” The student said, pointing at me, “SHE doesn’t look like a Beginner. So does that mean by the end of the class I’ll be able to sit like her?”

The instructor responded, in brilliant yogic fashion, “Well, actually, if you get a couple of blankets, you’ll probably be able to sit like that right now!”

Sure enough, after some proper arrangement of props, she was sitting comfortable with a straight spine and crossed legs. “This is kinda fun!” she chirped, happily perched high up on her stack of blankets.

It was such an interesting class for me, and exciting to be in the room with several other women who were brand new to yoga. I remembered why I love teaching (even though I was a student), because of that opportunity to witness a person’s discovery of something for the very first time.

For me, I discovered that in this “Beginner’s” class, we held some of the poses even longer than in my regular class. We may have done fewer poses, but each was held longer because of adjustments being done for each student, and overall pacing of the class. I discovered certain challenges that had not revealed themselves in my normal pace of practice! I went deeper into certain poses. I inquired further into areas that were previously familiar to me.

We did a circle of supported Tree Pose, which I loved. I notice that it’s rare to make eye contact with other students during most yoga classes! What a joy it was to actually touch each other and become trees together!

How interesting that I had read Rolf Gates’ entry just this morning, and then was presented right away with this lesson in the value of practicing moderation – in this case, exactly the example he gave about noticing our attachments to doing yoga “a certain way” just because we’ve developed the habit. Today I got to break a habit and discover the value in being with “Beginners”…and seeing how we can ALL be beginners. How about beginning right now?

I can go on and on about the various “synchronicities” that have been happening to me lately, since I’ve been allowing and listening to my life. It’s almost ridiculous how magical the “coincidences” are, but I’m beginning to really see how this works. It feels great, it’s a constant practice, and I’m going to keep going!

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