As I come up against my first year mark teaching and the tail end of my almost fourteen year practice, I reflect on the yogis and yoginis I surround myself with daily. These folks, with whom I come into daily contact at studios, are ‘enthusiasts’ whose conversation with me ranges anywhere from the occasional ‘hi’s” to “how is the kid’s soccer going?” to “you’re here again?” banter.
As we pass each other and fill up our water bottles or pull our hair into a ponytail quickly and carelessly–every time, there is excitement for the start of class.
As a teacher, I can tell who the students are who have the pure love of yoga. These are the people I see doing doubles and triples in a day. Some are in teacher training programs or other weekend intensives that require a set amount of hours for completion; and others are not in any programs. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, at times, I do wonder if this seemingly “obsessive” streak among the doublers and triplers is healthy for their bodies. This concern mostly comes from knowing that some of these people have not practiced for all that long and their bodies are still acclimating. One student who really brought this to my mind was a very petite woman who always wears many layers of clothing in class, including her cross country ski shell. It feels like 110 degrees F inside the studio, yet she wears all those clothes and takes two or three classes a day.
Before, as a student, I never thought twice about this. Now as a teacher, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps they are taxing their bodies (and minds) with yoga. Whether they know about the concept of “moderation” or Brahmacharya; These yogis and yoginis take the word ‘enthusiast’ to the next level: maybe even up to the weightiness of the word “zealot.”
I ask myself if they are seeking their mats as a distraction for life – but I don’t dare ask as it is usually not my place. My place is to help them while they are on their mats, give them something to think about off their mats, be approachable for anything outside of class they might bring up with me, and to prepare to drive to my next location for my next class.
Indeed, yoga is life-enhancing, life-transformative, and there have been stages of my life when I couldn’t get enough yoga. Even as a teacher now, I crave my mat as I am on the ‘giving’ end lately more than the receiving.
But what is easily seen is reminiscent of the Type-A Yoga Girl of Pemco Insurance Northwest profiles ad series. Notice the description: It seems pretty funny–but there is definitely truth there. And I think I was even once considered this girl at least during times of turmoil and chaos in my life pulling doubles and triples myself.
With the past six years being my most ‘zealot-like stint” during both teacher training times and non-training times, I think it is fair to say that my phases have ebbed and flowed seasonally. At times, I’m going 3-4 days a week (like now) as a teacher and in the past, during cycling prep or mountaineering trip trainings, I’ve barely gone to yoga in the summer months. As far as a home practice goes, I’ve done my own yoga sporadically, especially if you count being cramped up in a tent all night and stretching to the morning dew in the morning and light of dawn.
With all these insights noted, I ultimately think that students don’t realize that it is okay to put yoga down for awhile. This is especially true after a challenge is complete such as a 15- or 30-day challenge like so many students complete during slower times at studios. I tell my students it is okay to return back to it when the season dictates, that it is okay to explore other types of exercise. It’s hard to convince the most stubborn zealot of this as most of them know in their heart of hearts – the day just doesn’t feel right without their yoga treat. But others are easier to convince as they know they will do yoga until they die. Like me. I know that and never question it.
Though, I always feel so good after I hit a master class with a studio founder or Wanderlust-type personality, I have to remember that having lots of dimensions in one’s life is healthy. And, I think the authenticity and boldness to be able to admit this to peers may either hurt my career or broaden it. But in the true spirit of yoga, I will let them own their judgements knowing that my yoga journey is completely different than anyone else’s. This is my truth.
If there is a time you can’t get to a class because of your schedule or Seattle traffic or because the weather is gorgeous and you’d rather go do something else – give yourself permission. To be able to look at yoga as a lifetime pursuit that is always there in all seasons and to take advantage of the outdoors to enrapture yourself in in the given season. The bravery to do something different; to be able to stop beating yourself up if you can’t get make the 12:00 because of dang traffic.
It is always there for you. Just like at the point you decide to fully extend your legs in your tripod headstand, trust it to expand and contract on its own.
Also by Jackie: How to Unblock the Sixth Chakra and Rediscover Your Intuition
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Photo: Matt Madd via Flickr; Pemco