It’s been over a week since I’ve been to yoga.
God, I’ve missed it.
And tonight’s class – nay, experience – was a phenomenal re-entry.
Tonight I attended my first (of four) visiting teacher weekend classes. The visiting instructor I chose is Dave Romanelli. I didn’t selected him because I knew him (I don’t); I didn’t select him because he’s some “big name” in the yoga field (I hadn’t heard of him prior to this offering); I didn’t select him because I was terribly impressed by any part of his resume or writings I found when I researched him online (they were all “fine”, but nothing that blew my hair back or knocked my socks off)… I decided to elect this experience for my visiting teacher weekend because of the spirit I thought would be present in these sessions. Some yoga teachers are all about the spiritual elements of yoga; cool, but I already have a strong spiritual practice, and Shiva and Krishna and Ram and Vishnu and Ganesh and all the rest of the Hindu gods aren’t a part of that picture. Some yoga teachers are focused on the calming/soothing/meditative side of yoga; again, cool, but I also already have a strong meditation practice that I engage in every morning and that I attend retreats for, so I didn’t feel the need/desire to engage in a meditation weekend for this experience. Some yoga teachers are all about the study of the ancient yoga texts; cool, but I’m already enough of an “academic”, and I don’t feel like I need (or want) my yoga practice to reinforce an aspect of me that is already wildly strong/bordering on imbalanced. From my yoga practice, I want/desire (and dare I say need?) something that takes me out of my thinking mind, brings me into my physical body, keeps me grounded in the present, does not encourage me to depend on a mystical third party (or parties), challenges me to explore personal limits safely/kindly/gently – but above all else, is just freakin’ fun.
From all of the visiting instructor offerings I saw from my studio, it looked like Dave was the best bet at delivering.
And tonight was Class #1.
Dave began the class by giving a brief introduction to himself, during which he name-dropped: He’s from LA, has worked for Shaquille O’Neal, is friends with a James Beard award-winning foodie, has taken yoga classes directly from Bikram, etc. etc. Immediately, I felt myself bristle. While this is a very American-business thing to do (i.e., establish credibility via associations with the established credibility of others [“trust me because I know ‘important’ people”]), it’s a personal pet-peeve of mine. Why must anyone “prove” they are worthy of being acknowledged? Since we are all humans, how about we just acknowledge each other as our default mode of operation? Instead of someone having to earn our acceptance, how about we just give full acceptance, so that the other person has to work to “lose” it? But, I digress. Fortunately, about 45 seconds into Dave’s introduction, I realized that *my* mind was going into a judging space; and initially, I was disappointed in and frustrated with myself [that once AGAIN, here I was, judging…] But then I became aware that hey!, it took me only 45 seconds to realize that I’m judging – and that is marked progress! Go me! And goodbye judging mind; let’s get on with accepting (and therefore enjoying) this experience.
So I did. And it was cool.
The theme of tonight’s class was “Yoga + Miracles”; and the question posed to us at the beginning of the session was basically this: How do we open up to the possibility of miracles in our own lives? Miracles – real, true, ‘unbelievable’ miracles have been claimed for hundreds and thousands of years by hundreds and thousands of people; and these folks can’t all be lying, can they? Unexplainable things happen more often then we might like to recognize; so “something” out there must be at least be possible in the miracle-related realm…So how do we unclench, open up, relax, and perhaps experience at least some mini-miracles in our own lives – if not a full-blown wonder?
Funky, cool music then began (the likes of The Beatles [Hey Jude], U2 [Joshua Tree], and many others), and away we went with a vinyasa class that was a workout! We were doing planks, and pushups, and in-the-air splits, and crunches, and twists, and inversions… but here is one of the miracles I personally experienced tonight: 20-or-so minutes into the class, Dave made a comment something along the lines of “hey, you can do it, stay with me…”, and I realized, oh, this class session must be difficult? Because honestly, I was just groovin’ with the music, and lovin’ the cool poses we were doing, and enjoyin’ the all-out beautiful expression of my body; it honestly didn’t even occur to me to resist, or push away, or react to the experience. I was just flowing with it, immersed in it, enjoying it, and marveling at how well I was doing in it!
As we continued on in the class, as the poses got more challenging, I continued to enjoy; and as I twisted, and reached, and moved, I found length and strength I didn’t even know I had. At one point in the class, I felt like I was as long as I could be, but then something in my mind asked, “But what if you stretched just a little bit more?” So I did – and I’ll be damned! I found a few more inches of space in my body! Where the heck did that come from??!! Crazy cool!
Towards the end of the class (after our bodies were very “warmed up”), Dave moved us into a pose I have never experienced before: lizard pose. It was cool to learn something 100% new. And then, he cued us, “Okay, now move your right foot forward, and your left foot back…”, and so I did, and waited for the next instruction. But another instruction didn’t come – which usually means that we should be settling into the pose, trying to experience it more fully. So, okay, going deeper into this pose meant moving my right leg more forward and my left leg more back, so I did; and still, no more instruction from Dave. So I kept reaching each leg into its respective direction… and kept going…. And going…. And going…. And in about 5 seconds, I was in the splits! Holy crap!! I have NEVER been able to do the splits before; and now here, at 35 years old, I was in the splits without even trying! Holy crap! This is super cool! Hello little miracle #2.
Somewhere in the last quarter of the class, my heart was struck with a deep, deep gratitude for my old yoga teacher. The classes I took from her every Thursday at 6 am were basically the synthesis of everything I experienced tonight. She is bright, happy, and loving; and she teaches really difficult yoga poses, but with fun music and a light-hearted attitude; she is a gem, her small yoga studio is the little engine that could, her spirit is amazingly positive and lovely, and I continue to see/feel/experience her influence in my yoga practice, and in my life. She did an AMAZING job of “preparing” me for this yoga teacher path (whether she knows it or not; I certainly didn’t realize it until just recently), and she also helped seed my mind with nuggets of self-confidence, and self-acceptance. My mouth smiles and heart soars whenever I think of her, and I’m just wildly grateful to her.
So. At the end of it all, after tonight’s class, I exited the back door to walk to my car. My stinky, sweaty body met the freshness of the summer air. My warm, stale physical form met the cool, fresh breeze. The peace in my mind and the contentment in my soul met a low, calm rumble of a passing train. All is well.
God, I love this.