Last week I dropped my daughter off for her first day as a camp counselor at the camp she attended 10 years earlier when she was just four years old. As I watched her walk down the hill towards the entrance I caught my breath. I started thinking about the cycle of things–the circular pattern our lives often take– and about the journey– how long it is (if we are lucky) and how fast it goes. This became my inspiration for my classes last week.
I started class with my students in seated meditation and asked them to capture the feelings and thoughts they had experienced in their first yoga class. What did it feel like in their bodies? What were their thoughts? What was something they thought they would never ever ever achieve on their mats?
As we began to warm up with Sun Salutes, I shared my first yoga experience and a little insight into my own journey.
I took my first yoga class about 20 years ago. Let’s just say.. I didn’t like it much. In fact I really disliked it. I am naturally flexible but I felt very weak. Holding downward dog for what felt like an eternity was very physically difficult and my mind was aggravated. The teacher annoyed me and holding poses annoyed me and I could not wait for Savasana to be over. I walked out of that class thinking this Yoga thing is NOT for me.
Back on the mat, as my students moved through a series of sequences designed to prepare their bodies for a specific peak pose I continued my story.
Two years after that first class, I decided to try Yoga again. It was a different type of Yoga. It was more predictable and accessible which is what I needed at that time. After several months, I found I was ready to explore more of what the diverse San Francisco yoga scene had to offer. (where I lived during this time) and I came to the realization a couple of years after that, that I wanted to in fact become a teacher.
As we continued to flow I reminded everyone to channel their first class; how they likely felt they had to do exactly what the teacher instructed despite what their bodies might have said, and how they probably had a cluttered mind that was difficult to quiet. From there I asked them to realize the perspective they had gained since then and to be grateful for how far they have come on their journey.
Just as I had asked each of my students to remember something that seemed completely out of reach to them at the beginning of their yoga journey, I let them know that in fact we had been preparing to attempt mine; Mayurasana (Peacock pose pictured above).
As we broke down the steps I reminded them that the joy is in the journey. It is not about the destination, but rather the perspective and gratitude we gain along the way that is the true practice. And the journey is not a straight one; we encounter many twists and turns, false starts and steps back and sometimes even find ourselves having gone in what feels like a circle. The practice is to learn from it all, to find gratitude for everything we can and continue on.
As we began to slow down in preparation for Savasana, I shared with them how these dots connected for me into my message for the week.
It took me quite some time to make the decision to do my yoga teacher training. It was the birth of my daughter (that same one I dropped off at her job as a counselor) that guided me on this journey.
As I drove away from the drop off last week, I flashed back on the past 15 years of our journey together and realized how her whole life had changed my path in amazing ways. The cycles in our lives offer those moments of perspective and gratitude if we are present enough to receive them. I took both in that moment.
As my students came into Savasana, I asked them to remember their first Savasana; perhaps they were fidgety or found it difficult to settle the mind…just as I had. Then I again asked them to compare that first Savasana to this moment– laying still on the mat letting their bodies go and their minds open; to once again find gratitude for how far they had come. As we sat together in one final meditation, I expressed my gratitude for the chance to share their journey with them. The Journey is the Joy after all. Namaste.