I spent the weekend teaching at BIG Power Yoga in Houston, TX. BIG is a Baptiste affiliated studio, full of hard-working, sincere, and fun yoga practitioners and teachers. I always feel a fondness for Baptiste yoga practitioners, having worked with them back in my Anusara yoga days at Breath and Body in Austin, TX, when Desirae Pierce invited me to lead a few immersions and teacher trainings there.
So, while I am not trained in that particular approach to yoga practice, I have been a friend of their community for many years and have found that the Baptiste folks who make it into my workshops and trainings to be very high caliber students who know how to work hard and how to make use of challenge.
I often introduce a different kind of hard work than the work of power vinyasa. For instance, I don’t teach a lot of the postures in flow, I generally don’t heat the room, I explain a lot, I demonstrate a lot, I rant a lot, and I give a lot of details to work with in terms of alignment. So while the content of the work may look different, these students understand challenge and how to work with it.
Years ago, I was in line at a conference with Baron Baptiste and he shared a few thoughts on his trainings with me. It went something like this: “Well, most of us don’t really know who we are until we get squeezed. Our trainings squeeze people so they can see what kind of juice come out. Generally, it is not so sweet at first. But under the sadness, anger, and fear, the sweetness is always there. That is what it is about for me— helping people get to that.”
(Something like that. Maybe not exactly.)
Sometimes the squeeze is a different class format, sometimes it is a pose we can’t do, a longer hold than we are used to, a fellow classmate breathing too loud, a substitute teacher, a song we hate on a playlist, the heat, the not-heat, the teacher’s personality and opinions, our self-criticism, the classroom culture, a disappointing role model, a fall from grace, a destruction of some illusion we are holding onto interiorly or exteriorly, and so on. Different things squeeze different people at different times along the way. The key is not trying to not get squeezed, but to learn how we can work with the squeeze when it happens, Because the squeeze will happen.
(Keep in mind, I do not believe this applies with abuse, manipulation, coercion, etc. and so sometimes how we work with certain squeezes from certain people and situations is to get out as quickly as possible.)
The point is, the challenge is not challenge for challenge sake alone. We do not need to make practice hard just for hard’s sake. The idea is to make use of the inevitable challenges of sustained practice— which are often multiplied in group and community settings— in ways that helps us move through the bitterness of the first squeeze so we can taste—even for a moment— the nectar of what lives beneath.
Lee used to say that as a guru he had no need to test anybody. “Time,” he always said, “will test everybody.”
You know that adage from Pattabhi Jois about “Practice and all is coming”? Not one bone in my body thinks he is actually talking about poses. Of course, how do I know? I wasn’t there when he said it. I am not a member of that community of practitioners. But, nonetheless, every time I see someone repeat that quote with a picture of some newly attained posture— as though practice and time will bring all poses to every body— I cringe a bit.
First of all, that time and practice will result in an ever-increasing list of postures we can do is a myth.
I mean, it might. But, it might not.
For me, that adage speaks to the fact that life is always rolling along and all is coming with it. Sure, if we are established in practice and carving out time to be on our mats more days than not, then maybe— hopefully— we are developing awareness, strength, mobility and clarity in that domain. Maybe we will actually be able to feel that we are making progress. That is the idea, I suppose.
Or one of the ideas.
But even with a well-established and progressing practice, outside the practice space, there will be births, deaths, illnesses, new love blossoming, divorces, break-ups, partings-of-ways, new jobs, lost opportunities, misunderstandings, racial tensions, social injustice, political WTF’s and fallout galore. If we are lucky, our practice life will help us reduce our need for drama and self-destruction and perhaps we learn some better coping skills along the way. All that is great. But no matter how well we manage ourselves and our issues, still—- life will roll through and with it, the inevitable squeeze, will come.
Truly, ALL is coming.
At some point, I gave up the childish fantasy that yoga would make everything in my life better. Of course, I actually do think my life is better with yoga in it. And I enjoy being me more when I have a regular relationship with practice. However, sustained practice is no guarantee that there will be no calamity or hardship. And while it may not be a stunning conclusion to this particular blog entry to say it, the only thing practice actually seems to guarantee is practice itself. What we get from practice might just be the thing itself.
Anyway, the weekend was great. I got home Monday and then Tuesday started my series at The Yoga Tonic in Salida. Wednesday, I had my Finding Depth in the Basics webinar and today, Kelly and I had enough time to get to the high country for some hiking with Locket, who is now resting quietly in my office while I write.
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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."