Monday, October 10, 2011

Marvelous Mess Ups in a Yoga Class Gone Right

 I spent this past week at my spiritual home in this life, Kripalu Center, in the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts. I was there doing one of the things I love most, assisting Let Your Yoga Dance teacher training. One of my jobs in the program is to lead morning yoga class for our group. My first time up came Tuesday morning and I was feeling quite nervous as there were several fabulous and experienced yoga teachers in the group, as well as some people with little yoga experience at all. I am a planner and bit of a control freak with my classes and I hold high expectations of myself. I spent Monday night writing my plan and feeling the sequencing, and then dreamt of it during my sparse sleep that night.

  I arrived in the room early to move, breathe, and find my courage as well as my center. At 6:30 a.m. everyone had arrived and class began. As I got the group moving in gentle warm ups, I found my rhythm and was feeling connected and at ease. We eventually made our way into a sequence of spinal movements and flow, a graceful dance of movement and breath. My planned transition came and then a voice from the front of the room asked, "Don't we need to do the other side?".  My heart skipped a beat and my breath caught in my throat. I waited to feel the crushing pain of my mistake, my heartbreak in the failure. Instead, to my own shock and surprise, it did not come, and instead I found myself smiling, with a light heart. I made a comment about being a little vata (airy) and saying that of course we will do the other side. That was that, a moment of experience, and then it was gone.

  I continued class, found my flow again, and in no time relaxation was upon us. I put on some dreamy music and gave the class guidance in letting go and finding stillness. I could feel the energy of the room become quiet and expansive and I felt quite happy and complete. That is when the fire alarm went off. Again, I paused to receive the panic and resistance, and again it did not come. Instead I found another inner smile and giggle, and I spoke into the microphone in a deep slow tone, "Your relaxation has come to an end. (and then a quick deadpan) Om shanti. Run for your lives." Everyone rose up with laughter fluttering through the room, and we made our way outside.  It was cool and rainy but I took deep breaths and just kept smiling.

  Afterward, I felt such a glowing pride and sense of victory.  I have a strong and sometimes brutal inner critic and tend to hold myself to strict standards from a fear of rejection. God forbid I would make a mistake or lose control, then everyone would see my flawed messy self and be done with me. Ridiculous and irrational? Yes, but who isn't, in these soft, tender, hidden regions? Chances are you might feel this way too and now you know you are not alone. Victory is possible. On this day, in this class, a miracle happened. The miracle of me finding compassion instead of criticism, for no one but myself. I found my natural sense of humor and lightness of being. I received experience without attachment or judgment. I encountered my witness consciousness in a place where it would usually succumb to the strong forces of my story of rejection. Wow, what a blessing, what a rush of freedom!

 I am sure that this is a part of myself that I will face again and again, but I now have a jumping off point to go to. I have a new storyline and a new way of being with this part of myself.  I know and I teach that the only way to heal fully is to embrace all parts of ourselves, the parts we love and the parts we disdain. Yoga means union, to welcome it all and find the marvelous miracle of who we are, even in the mess, the loss of control, the undoing of plans. Yoga is learning to love ourselves without exception or condition, a difficult practice, but one full of grace.

Om shanti.   


  1. Oh, believe me, the universe is the real teacher and our best made plans instead become a lesson for letting go of our best made plans :) Great post and teaching yoga has taught me that I really don't "know" that much. You are a wonderful teacher and I hope when I visit Kripalu at the end of the month I see your smiling face.

  2. Jean-Love the post. It's amazing how many of us think so alike. I enjoyed your classes and your teaching very much!!