When I entered the yoga studio today, I had no clue what was in store for me as I set up my mat as close to the heater as possible (I love heat!), and got ready for the hour class at noon. In came the teacher, telling us we were going to start in a different way. The class started slowly, which is unusual for any one hour class because we need to warm up fast so we will have enough time to get into more challenging poses within those 60 minutes. The students, including myself, probably seemed very surprised, because the teacher said, “You might think this is way too slow of a start for a 60-minute class, but I promise we are going to work hard.” I smiled as I didn’t doubt her. Her name is Mary, and she is a wonderful teacher, who has never stopped kicking my butt since I started taking classes with her. She always has a surprise under her sleeves! And when she demonstrates yoga poses, oh my! Sometimes I even forget I need to try to repeat it right after, as I am still delighting in seeing her move so gracefully, yet with a fierceness that makes us believe we all can do it, too.
I had the privilege of taking classes at this yoga studio since it opened, about 14 months ago. At that time, the studio was still getting established, so there were fewer students in each class, which meant lots of one-on-one attention. And boy! So much growth happened to my practice in that period that even I had a hard time believing I could do some of those challenging poses! Mary is one of the teachers who has been there consistently, describing step by step how to prepare for poses, reaffirming we can do it, and always smiling. She likes to remind us to smile during class, especially when we are performing a pretzel-like pose and need all the focus we can to achieve it. That’s when she says, “A smile doesn’t hurt!” Even though I heard it many times already, it still works every time…
Back to today’s class specifically, when it was time for us to set an intention at the beginning of class, Mary suggested we should just aim to be really present during class today. I had never had that as my intention in a yoga class, but today I decided to follow her advice. And so I did; I was present for most of the class, the mind only tried a couple of times to start the usual chattering, but somehow gave way to peace instead. And, as the class progressed, sweat was squeezed out of me, to the point of dripping around my mat. Oh! How I love that sweat, it makes me feel alive! Yes, again, she made us work hard.
At the final part of class, teachers usually suggest we reconnect with our initial intention, and I realized I had been pretty much present throughout the whole class – what an accomplishment, because usually my mind is busy giving me hints about what I should do with an issue or another, coming up with creative ideas for my classes, and sometimes my mind even goes through the whole grocery list I still need to get to after class. Not today, only a few thoughts that vanished miraculously. It was peaceful, even though there was hard work being done by my body. And, as I bowed at the end of class, as we usually do, a huge wave of gratitude came over me and I felt so very blessed for being able to be there, on my mat, sharing the space with Mary and other wonderful yogis. Tears came to my eyes and I acknowledged them and all this thankfulness overflowing from my heart. After the class ended, I couldn’t help but go tell Mary how I was feeling; I wanted to share it with her; it is such a beautiful feeling that it should be shared. I also told her that, if I wasn’t sweating that much, I would give her a hug right there, and guess what she did? She gave me a hug, even though I was soaked in sweat, all sticky and probably smelly. That didn’t bother her! That’s the kind of person she is. No wonder I felt so grateful, even before the hug happened!
This is yet another reason I can’t stop admiring yoga, it sets us up for a beginner’s mind, among other reasons, such as never a class has been the same since I have started doing it more than eight years ago, or never have I left a class feeling worse than when I came in; I will always be feeling better at the end of class, that’s a given. But once again today I saw that I never know what to expect from a class, not just from what a teacher brings in – as new challenging poses, elaborate sequences, deep readings from books, or even songs chosen – but what my consciousness will also offer me. And today I accepted that offer with wide open arms! I look forward to bringing these discoveries to more and more people by sharing the gift of yoga with them, no matter what their ages are.