Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Daring To Be Me

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

     This week, on Friday, at 2:00 Shanghai time to be exact, I will officially begin my part time teaching gig at Y+, the biggest yoga studio in Shanghai. Exciting? Yes. Terrifying? A bit.

This studio has three locations, it is fancy, high gloss, big city yoga, way out of my comfort zone. It's clientele is predominantly super bendy Chinese women in their twenties, versus me, a not so bendy 42 year old woman and mother of three, further still from my comfort zone. The yoga culture here is all about the body, achievement oriented, far from spiritual, all about sweat and doing the next more advanced pose, a universe away from my comfort zone.

There is that quote, maybe you have heard it, "Your life begins where your comfort zone ends." I am about to step into a whole lotta life! This is that yoga of "bearing the consequences of being who you are". From the get go I had a choice, to try to fit in and mold myself as best I could to blend into these surroundings, or I could dare to be me and accept whatever outcome that provided.

When the studio manager interviewed me a few months ago, I was very transparent and conscientious in making sure she completely understood where I stand on yoga practice, as well as what strengths and gifts I bring to the table and what I don't. I talked about being a yoga educator and not just a one dimensional asana leader. I talked about a yoga that everyone can practice, and populations who need yoga and are not being served by the current yoga culture. I admitted that after all these years of practice I can not do a handstand and probably never will, but that my spirit and life force are exponentially stronger, and I know myself more with each day of practice. At the end of this lengthy interview I wasn't sure where I stood, but I knew I had been completely authentic, honest and true. The studio manager said she wanted to set up an audition class. I agreed, heart pounding.

She billed my audition class as "gentle flow" and it would be open to all studio members. Leading up to the class she asked me if it would really be gentle? Even on the day of the class she asked me if it would be very gentle and if she would get very sweaty? I told her it would be gentle and definitely not very sweaty. I had planned a flow, very Kripalu in style, compassionately working and opening the whole body with a focus on self inquiry and awareness of all aspects of being, and, of course, a lot of breath!

As I led the class I could sense many of the students were unfamiliar with such a gentleness in the movements and this emphasis on feeling and inner focus. I stood firmly on what I have learned from my teachers and my practice, be true to myself, have faith in my path, when in doubt, breathe. Really, in no uncertain terms, it was dare to be me or just not show up at all. I can't will my body into being other than what it is. I can model acceptance though, I trust that shift will happen.  

"The feedback from the class was mixed." I was told in a subsequent meeting. "Many of the students loved it and appreciated this style of yoga. Those who rated the class lower," the studio manager explained, "did so because they thought it was not hard enough, not intense enough." I said to her, "But it was listed as a gentle class." "Yes," she replied, "and that is where, like you, I see a problem."

The fact is that people here, at least the people I have seen on the yoga mat, have a resistance to being gentle or doing less, and perhaps that is born out of a lack of understanding of yoga, and also, perhaps, a true reflection of the fast paced life and demanding mindset of people here in China. (Not so different from the culture I left back in the states.)

I wondered now whether the studio would want to hire me? I had dared to be myself, to show up and teach from my place of authenticity, and offer something that goes against the grain here. I almost had to pinch myself when the studio manager said, "We need you here. We want to sign you on as a regular teacher at the studio."

In just a few days, I will once again show up, heart pounding, returning to my inhalation and exhalation, faith unfolding, as well as mats.  I will dare to be me, nothing more, nothing less.  I will teach from my heart and let it be an offering. I will take this chance, step out of my comfort zone and dive deeper into living, and I know deep down that by doing so, I will certainly help others to do so as well.  Wish me well.



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