So, I’ve been stewing. Again.
Those of you that know me are not going to be surprised by that fact, because if you know me at all, you will know that I am a stewer. I get ahold of a thought or an idea in my head and roll it around and chew on it sort of like my dogs in the back yard do with a favorite tree branch or bone. So, I’ll say it again, I’ve been stewing.
About what, you might fairly ask?
About yoga. And what it means. And what it’s for.
So, what’s the point, anyway?
Seldom have I ever seen such a blissful, gentle, personal, even Godly practice be the subject of such controversy. Right wing Christians think it’s a satanic practice, traditional yogis think of it as a largely spiritual , eight-limbed endeavor with the least emphasis placed on asana, athletes think of it as some crazy gymnastics hopping around thing, and I think…I like the way it makes my body hum.
Yes, I said hum. When I haven’t caught an asana class in a while, which has been a lot lately, my body and soul hunger for that familiar stretching sensation, that warmth, and that yummy humming that often arrives softly between poses. In my practice, I try very hard to hear what my body is telling me it needs. Sometimes that means challenging myself with loud music and a swift vinyasa that almost feels like laughter, and sometimes it means gentle, almost sensual viniyoga style motion that swiftly brings me to a place of peace and rest, a place of what Patanjali called “Union” with my soul and God. There is no single style of yoga that will work for me one hundred percent of the time. Sometimes I need the stretchy, static non-motion of an Iyengar style class. Who knows, with this body of mine? I have complete respect for what it tells me. It’s almost like a craving, like when you’ve just got to have chocolate or you will surely die.
So. I am a curvy yogi. We’ve covered that here before. Many of my students are curvy yogis, or are a little older than the youngsters that often populate studio classes, and many of them have physical limitations, or are sufferers of past trauma, or bad choices, or whatever. I have heard over and over how these people come to my classes because I am not threatening. They feel safe, and accepted, and not the odd man out, so they are free to be themselves and do what their bodies tell them they can do. I feel incredibly honored that they trust me with their self esteem as well as their bodies, and I try very hard to meet them where they are, not where the world thinks they ought to be. My classes are safe places for their souls.
That being said, I have a pretty healthy self esteem, and even I have been bruised emotionally in studio vinyasa type classes full of anorexic, egotistical people in tie dye. I know all too well what it feels like to be stared at as I modify a pose to suit my body, or take child’s pose when I feel my heart rate is too high. I have all too often felt penalized by Western yoga culture for the yogic “union” that my body shares with my soul.
I cannot even imagine telling someone suffering from PTSD, or cancer, or overweight, or whatever, that their goal as yogis should be mainstreaming. I will never tell someone that yoga is about following some silly rules about what poses must go in what order always, or that yoga is only about losing weight and building powerful muscles, or impressing anyone. To do so IS NOT YOGIC, as yoga is a very personal journey that is about so much more than what you can do with your body.
All of this being said, here are the promises that I, as a teacher, make to you, my students, and prospective students:
1. I promise you that I will never teach in a way that makes anyone feel “less than.”
2. I will make certain you feel safe, both inside and outside your body.
3. I promise to respect your wishes, and your body, and provide you with skills to help you rest, relax, and become healthy.
4. I promise to provide an encouraging environment where you can be challenged as much as you desire.
5. I promise to continue my personal yogic journey so that I always have something new and interesting to offer you.
6. I promise to smile and laugh with you.