Holding back, no longer

I’ve been holding back, thinking that the gym-goers wouldn’t want to go to yoga if there was ‘OMing’ involved or anything mildly spiritual. But somethings my teacher said Saturday, really hit home. Not doing those parts of class is like lying, or hiding part of yourself and part of the practice. Those are the things that make yoga yoga, and not just come crazy jumping around and stretching.

It is my job to show people new to yoga what yoga is, and what it is not. If I start out hiding parts of what yoga is (which I did, oops) then you can’t go back later and make people believe that it includes other things as well. Start out teaching your classes authentically. As my teacher said, I have OM tattooed on my arm, so obviously it means something to me. So I should share that, not hide it away. People can see when you are not being authentic, and they don’t aways respond well to something like that.

Yoga means to “unite”, meaning uniting breath, body, and mind. Just doing the poses will connect your mind to your body, for better coordination. But that’s not the whole picture. By leaving out the OM and the talk about connecting to your breath, feeling your hands connect to the ground, getting to know your body, to know when its time to keep going and when its time to rest, you’re leaving out really important parts. That is what connects you to your body, what centers you, allows your mind to relax.

Imagine this: You go to yoga class after work. A car cuts you off on the way and you yell at them. You need to pick up groceries after class, and you have to get some more work done after that. If class consists of just postures, there is no talk of letting things go, no OM, deep breaths, you have space in your head to write up that grocery list, your to do list and you keep going over that guy who cut you off. When you leave, you’re still angry, you’re just ready to get your errands done, and go to bed because you’re so tired.

What if instead when you got into class, you started with OM. Right there, you already have something in your head shutting off all the chatter. You can feel that wonderful sensation when there are 20 people OMing all around you. The teacher talks about dropping your worries, to-do lists and staying in the moment, they talk about connection to breath, maybe even talk about spirituality. Suddenly there is nothing in your head besides the poses, the breath and the connection. When you leave you are energized and ready to take on those errands. The guy that cut you off isn’t even a thought anymore.

Chances are the more you take that second class, the more you will carry what you learned into the rest of your life. You learned more than just exercises, you learned life skills that will benefit everything you do.

So I tried all of this out on my classes yesterday. In the afternoon I had a private lesson with a woman new to yoga. She didn’t really know what to expect or how to do the poses, so I did the class with her so she could follow me while I called poses. I used more Sanskrit than I had been, we did OM at the beginning of class and at the end of class, along with “The light in me sees and honors the light in you. Together we say Namaste.” I talked about the connection between her hands and the mat, talked about the breath, what it means, and what yoga means.

And guess what. She left smiling, thanking me and saying she would see me again next week! Whoa! That is a huge change from other weeks when people leave without even saying goodbye. Now, that could just be her, but even if it is just her, I left feeling more energize. Because I wasn’t trying to hide parts of my yoga practice.

I was being authentically me.

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