Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An imperfect practice


People often say, “ I had an intense love affair with…” then insert whatever hobby and or activity that they did for a little while and have since given up on.  That being said, my relationship with yoga has been more like a marriage than a love affair.  It began long ago when my mom took a yoga class at her college.  She was a returning student who had raised her two children and went back to school to get her degree. Eventually she would follow in my footsteps and become a teacher, but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

My mom suggested that as a dancer, I would really like yoga.  From the age of 3-13 I had taken ballet lessons, then I took ballet again when required to take a PE class in college.  As a college student herself now, my mom had been forced to take phys Ed and she was delighted that yoga was one of her choices. Following her suggestion, I found a local class and brought my friend Greg along for good measure.  Our first class was Kundalini.

Greg and I immediately adored our instructor, Nancy, whose calm nature appealed to me and whose powerful chants and musicality resonated with Greg.  We both found the poses to be challenging as neither of us led a very active lifestyle except for the occasional summertime hike or walk around the block.  As we learned to move, we learned to breath and to meditate, and learned that yoga was more than exercise; it was body, mind and soul.  Our interest in yoga led Greg to research vegetarianism and he persuaded me to give it a try.  Then Nancy had to move away and without a teacher we found that our practice slowed. We grieved when she moved to St. Louis. When Nancy left us, we tried out a few classes here and there.  But we were not drawn to attend classes regularly as we had been with Nancy.  My friend Greg and I still practiced together occasionally but our practice began to stagnate.

Greg had the opportunity to travel to Germany and finding myself without my long time companion, I decided to sign up for a yoga class at the community center.  It was here that I met my next teacher.  Steve was a very fiery and muscular young man who taught the Iyengar style with energy and calm.  Very different than Kundalini, and very different than Nancy, but Steve inspired me to develop muscle and find strength in my poses and he still harkened to the spiritual and taught new and inspiring chants.  When Greg returned from Germany and quickly transitioned from my friend to my boyfriend, I brought him to Steve’s class and he and Steve instantly gelled.  It seemed we had found a new teacher.  Steve became more than a teacher, he quickly became a friend, coming to our Halloween parties, taking us out for dim sum, joining in drum circle nights.  He was eager to teach but also eager to learn.  We followed Steve as he taught classes at the local colleges, even taking a course where we took yoga 4 x a week one summer!  Our practice was on fire.  Then Steve’s teaching schedule and locations began to shift and we could no longer line up our practice with his teaching.  Again a time of home practice set upon us and again our passion for yoga lulled. 

That is not to say we did not practice yoga at all.  We occasionally took some classes at the Claremont Club, we found teachers that we enjoyed. Yet when we were looking to trim our budget and save for travel, our membership to the club was one of the first things we trimmed.  After all, Greg had only gone there to swim a handful of times, I could only manage the yoga classes a few times a month (more during the summer), and we only rarely worked out at the weight room.  Besides my increasing running practice was keeping me fit and I had gotten more regular about lifting weights at home, it seemed like the right time to return to a home practice of yoga.  I committed to 7 sun salutations each morning, which I have maintained religiously.  However making time for a deeper practice and other poses was simply not happening.

So just this summer, I was seeking an activity to keep me busy as I counted down the days before we left for Maui.  If found that a local yoga studio was offering 2 weeks of classes for only $40 to students new to their studio.  Perfect!  I had no idea that taking 8 classes in 2 weeks would be so challenging or so life changing.  By the end of the two weeks I had found a new home at this studio and a seed had been planted. 



I decided to join the yoga teacher-training program that my studio was offering in the fall.  It has been 15 years since I began to practice yoga and now seemed the right time to take this step.  It has been a long time coming.  As I embark on this new journey, I remind myself that my practice has always been imperfect and I take comfort in this.  I don’t have to be perfect to teach.  I have learned this from 17 years as an elementary teacher.  I can learn from my students, this is part of being a life long learner.  I don’t have to do each pose flawlessly to inspire.  My loyalty, my passion, and my eagerness will compensate for my shortcomings.  Practice doesn’t have to make perfect. This isn’t a passing fancy.  I am in this for the long haul; I have a lifetime to get it right.  May as well start now. 

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