In about a week, I will be doing this assessment. I’m one of these people who although I have taken so many assessments in my life always gets freaked out when I have to do another one. This time, it’s not just the prospect of teaching a class. It’s the prospect of being watched while I do this. I imagine my mentors sitting there, scrutinizing everything I say and how I say it, and watching me move and sputter through a class. Being someone who often gets panic attacks from having to speak in public, this is enough to make me question why I am doing this in the first place.
For the past three months, every class I have gone to, I have been sitting in my head scrutinizing my own alignment, trying to remember where every body part should be and trying to coax my mind into the right direction. Worse than that, when I am in class, I am listening to how my teachers give instructions, comparing them to how I should be giving instructions. As a result most days have been taken over by the chitta vritti of my mind, just the thing that yoga is meant to silence.
Then there are the other practices I am trying to turn into habits – the netti pot (which is on and off for me), meditation, magnesium, the yamas and niyamas, and journaling everything down, and it seems like there are endless things to do. Add to those the ongoing projects in my day job and the joys of living in the city where our senses are constantly being assaulted in every way, shape and form. Instead of being more relaxed, the effect is that I have been working myself into more stress, and possibly adrenal fatigue in the process.
Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten my own practice.
So during a time when I should be practice teaching, I just had to step back and return to the beginning. The only thing I wanted to do was to be in my corner of the class and just practice. In a world of doing, amidst all the chaos of thoughts sometimes, it helps to just come back to the the point of origin, to my mat that has known not just sweat but tears as well, and to the silence that is somewhere under all the chaos.
Have you ever felt like you were just stuck in a cycle of doing? It’s often what happens when we are learning. Every day someone is throwing a new idea at us and we just want to embody that idea as best we can. It’s not bad. It’s just part of the process in finding what works for us. However, before long, we might find ourselves caught in clutter and living somewhere in our heads. There is a destination, and all efforts suddenly lead to it.
It’s not just in studies or work.
Sometimes we can get like that in life. Have you ever been in a relationship where you suddenly felt like time was running out and you had to move on, to get engaged, to get married, and these so called ‘milestones’ take over the whole story. Before long, it becomes more about reaching these milestones than about who we do it with. Before long it becomes more about the wedding ceremony than being with the loves of our lives. Then one day we wake up, and wonder how the hell we got here? If we’re lucky, we have the loves of our lives. Sometimes we’re not and we’ve lost them in our race to a finish line. Sometimes we get to the finish line and realise that it’s with someone we don’t really want to be with. In a way, yes, I think things turn out the way they are meant to turn out, but on the other hand, there is merit to being conscious of our actions. Believe me, I was almost at the point of complicated return once. Turned around just in time.
Yes, sometimes, in that rush to get to a destination, it helps to stop and check in. What I discovered was that while I was in my head I had stopped embodying my yoga. My body, tense with stress and anxiety was not very cooperative. It had lost flexibility. So these past few days, just before I leave for camp, I needed to find my yoga again. I needed to step back and remember why I was doing this, to stand in the corner of my classes, stop trying so hard and just let the wisdom of my teachers guide me. And surrender. Always surrender. Surrender to what is. Surrender to the moment. For it is in surrender that we find our way.
We live so much in a society of achieving and doing that we forget the magic of surrender. When we are in one place, our minds are often a few seconds, minutes, hours, days or even centuries in the future. Yes, I know the brain is important, and so are thoughts, but so is love. And unlike thoughts, ideas and dreams, love is not a destination. It is right here.
So yes, I stopped looking for my yoga in the future or what my brain wanted my poses to look like. I stopped looking for it in how the instructions were said, and guess what? It was right there, and I fell in love all over again. It didn’t matter that I can’t do a handstand on my own, and my crow has days when it won’t fly. It ceased to be about what I could do, and more about what it felt like. Just like everyone else I have my ups and downs but yoga has been with me through it all. Yoga makes me feel good. The why’s came back to me and it wasn’t complicated. I didn’t want to be famous, or to have people embody what I said they should. All I wanted was to offer to others what had been offered to me. Like my teachers before me, I wanted to provide a safe place where people could come and find themselves under all the clutter. I would like to hold a mirror up so that my students can someday see the beauty and strength that exists within them.
As Sri K. Patthabi Jois said, “do your yoga, all is coming.” And it is true. All is coming. The future is coming no matter how much you stress about it, and what will come will come in the way it is meant to come. All we have is now. And as I practiced, I hoped that I could someday provide this place for others – a safe place for people to slow down their minds enough to reconnect with their bodies and their hearts. A spot of silence where the past was honoured and the future was right there in that instance.
And surrender… Always surrender.