I woke up this morning and rolled over into childs pose and took conscious deep breaths and stretched. After stretching myself awake I got up and lit an incense (sandalwood today), boiled just enough water for a cup of tea as well as a cup of plain hot water to help the toxins flush out of my body. Then I brushed my teeth, took a shower and drank the hot water as I made breakfast. Oatmeal again, with cinnamon, cardamom, tulsi and raisins as well as a boiled egg with cumin on the side that I had boiled the day before. I finished the hot water and made a cup of tulsi tea with honey. Then I sat down and ate it all while reading more of the Jois book, "Yoga Mala".
After that I sat there a while and closed my eyes and meditated until I felt that I had meditated enough. I got ready and grabbed my things and jumped on my scooter and drove to the school. When I got there I was apparently late, but not really. Everyone was just really early. The room was packed though. 70+ people, mats maybe four inches apart. I found room and then made more room for two more students. My neighbor to the right was a 9-10 year old boy. Quite possibly the most flexible little thing I've ever seen. Very good at yoga. Very serious. He's obviously been practicing a few years. To my left was another flexible little thing. An Asian woman that was tiny and strong. Seeing these people work around me by the way, it didn't make me feel less about myself... I'm proud of them and what they have accomplished physically through yoga. It's inspiring to be surrounded by such strong individuals.
When my teacher, Saraswathi Jois came out everyone stood up so I did too. See, there isn't much direction here. They don't hand out a manual or textbook. They don't really offer much in the way of direction at all. You just join a group of yogi's in a room and follow along...
The room began chanting something I hadn't heard before. It's common for most people to start to beat themselves up about not knowing a mantra or a pose or this or that. I've found overtime and throughout my practice as well as throughout my time as a teacher, that it really doesn't do you any good to beat yourself up for not knowing something just yet or because you aren't able to do a pose easily at the moment. I think it's important to just smile and tell yourself, "this is the first step"... and then take that step courageously.
So... I just smiled and told myself that I'd learn it someday. Mantra and chants aren't necessarily taught... did you know that? Traditionally, you just listen and over time you pick it up. So I listened and participated when I could vocally, and then spiritually the rest of the time. At some point though I heard something familiar though and my heart soared! The student teacher chant! (I've shared it with you below... and you can click on the button and scroll down to hear it sung).
ॐ स॒ह ना॑ववतु । स॒ह नौ॑ भुनक्तु ।
स॒ह वी॒र्यं॑ करवावहै ।
ते॒ज॒स्वि ना॒वधी॑तमस्तु॒ मा वि॑द्विषा॒वहै॑ ॥
ॐ शान्ति॒ः शान्ति॒ः शान्ति॑ः ॥
om saha nāvavatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha vīryaṃ karavāvahai
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
May we be protected together. May we be nourished together.
May we work together, uniting our strength for the good of humanity. May our learning be luminous and purposeful. May there be no hostility between us.
Om peace, peace, peace.
Then the class moved onto the secondary series. This section includes advanced binds, handstands, arm balances and the like. At some point Saraswati asked if there were any new students and if so they should stop here and raise their hands. No one raised their hands. She asked, "Really, no new students?" I raised my hand. "How many poses do you know?" "Quite a few," I answered. She nodded... "Continue".
I continued and I'll tell you, I put my body in the weirdest binds ever and my ankle went places it's never gone before and I've never held lotus pose for so long!
Finally and thankfully at some point she said to me and a few other people, "Stop here, rest... watch." I did... I was sweating buckets but my breath was never once short and for this I'll admit I felt some pride. After a short time she asked others to stop and watch... to rest or to do this or that... and then when it was time for bridge pose she brought us all back into the practice.
It was difficult at first to sit still. An asana would occur and I couldn't help thinking to myself, "But I can do that!"... finally I just let go and watched and enjoyed resting. I am definitely going to be sore tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to being in that room again with all of these yogi's, breathing in unison, practicing as one. I feel so grateful that I'm here. This place truly does make my heart soar. There's something amazing about being in a room and listening to the group inhale deeply together... exhale fully together... it creates an energetic connection between us all. I feel so alive. Present. Aware.
I've been practicing yoga for almost 10 years now, and maybe I am a slow learner but nothing came without consistent hard work. I admit I could sit here and beat myself up. I could let my pride get in the way. I could NOT practice Ahimsa emotionally and mentally... but instead I think I'll keep telling myself as I watch these amazing yogis around me and as they twist and turn themselves into little pretzels, that I may not be able to do that pose right now, but I will be able to do it someday... and that truly, what's most important to remember, is that it isn't the asana that is the reward, but the experience inside the journey of this practice... and I'll smile and patiently wait.