As the end of August approaches, I can feel a small hint of autumn in our mountain air, reminding me that soon the aspen leaves will be turning, the days and nights will be cold and the summer’s end will give rise to fall’s beginning. Like so many things in nature, there are no clear lines of demarcation, no obvious point where one thing becomes another, but instead there are small harnbingers of change, small hints of inevitable shifts to come and the endless, ongoing continuity of life itself is woven into a tapestry that is more cyclical than linear.
I think yoga practice is a lot like that as well. So many people tell me that “yoga changed their life” and I know exactly what they mean. I enjoy hearing these stories of transformation and change that get people onto the path of yoga and become a reference point for a new direction of growth and deeper self- understanding. Participating in a life of practice creates new possibilities and expanded perspectives that can be profoundly life-changing and “How yoga changed my life” stories are often filled with hope and inspiration.
And, it seems to me that slowly, over time, in the same way that summer’s heat and expansion yields to the coming of autumn and to the eventual contraction of winter, so too, do the seasons of yoga shift and change in their own ways within us. At some point, yoga becomes less of a stake-in-the-sand-moment-of-change and more of a thread of support and sanity that is woven into the fabric of our being. And like the cycles of nature, the cycles of practice have seasons of heat and passion, seasons of nourishing spring rains, and seasons where the ground of enthusiasm may feel as frozen and hard as the earth after a long winter.
No one ever told me these things. I think I expected to be able to maintain some kind of consistent zeal throughout the life of my practice and yet, the truth is that my journey has not been a straight line or a steady experience of “getting better and better every day.” And the longer I stay the course, the more my interests expand beyond the boundaries of my mat, beyond the dramas and concerns of our industry and well beyond a lot of commentary on the ever-changing landscape of modern yoga.
I have a lot less interest in all the wrongs with yoga and all the ways its running amuck and lot more appreciation for the power of my personal practice and the sanity it provides me in the midst of the seasons of change within me. I like my students more than ever and enjoy the ways that teaching yoga affords me an opportunity to bear witness to the seasons of change in their lives. I feel fortunate that teaching yoga gives me a way to stay in relationship to the power and the strength that a sustained relationship to yoga principles and practice provides.
At some point along the way I realized that I am never going to be the strongest, bendiest, smartest or most enlightened yoga practitioner or teacher out there. Other people are better at anatomy, therapeutics, philosophy distinctions, meditation, mantra and so on. Plenty of people have a more disciplined lifestyle and more easily digestible personalities than I do. (And based on my Facebook feed, a lot of people care MUCH MORE about all that stuff than I do these days. But I digress.) In same way that fall’s cool breeze blows through the sunny days of summer, I got a sense that the best offering I could make as a teacher would come from charting my inner landscape with compassion and love. Almost imperceptibly, and yet definitely, I began to know that I was never going to know everything about the subject of yoga, but I could know a lot about who I am and that knowledge, if integrated with patience, and tenderness, could be a foundation of sanity from which to teach and contribute to my student’s lives.
On the surface, it all looks the same, I suppose— I maintain my practice, I write good sequences, I teach solid classes, I do my best to answer my student’s questions thoughtfully, I apologize when my pitta flares, I study, I write, I meditate, and so on. But the best part is that some kind of tension lessened when the season changed from thinking that I was going to “get somewhere” with all of this to recognizing that so much was already present in the mix as it was. Somewhere along the way I started to realize that I have a thing I do as a teacher— and it is not as smart or as specific or as creative or as sexy or as fill-in-the-blank as other people’s offerings, and yet, it is mine. That thing I do comes the time spent inside the poses, the practices, the teachings. My offering comes as much from the ways I feel I do well as it does from my struggles, my mistakes, and my shortcomings. At the heart of it all, there is me and my repeated return to myself through the seasons of practice— hot, cold, sunny, cloudy, stormy or mild. Today, for me, there is no life-changing yoga but there is simply yoga in the midst of life changing.
On a personal note, I had a good summer— We planted a garden, I hiked in the mountains, I took a class with Locket, I got new glasses, and I spent time with my friends and family. My intensives at Mt. Princeton were deep and rich, reminding me of the power of community and how far sincerity can take people in yoga. I co-led a hiking and yoga retreat in the Dolomite mountains of Italy which was spectacular. I visited some of my favorite studios to teach and I got a chance to go to a workshop with one of my long-time Iyengar yoga teachers, Manouso Manos.
I have also been working on the edits for my new book, which is scheduled for publication in June, 2019. This book has taken me a long time to write and to revise and I am fairly pleased with how it has evolved. More on that soon.
And, if you are still reading, I am starting a new session of my online teacher development course in October. Space is limited to 25, because I want to get to know you so, sign up or find out more here!
Until next time, then.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."