This is a milestone month for me. I am celebrating a birthday that ends in a “0.” To some people, like my children, I will seem “old” and “over the hill.” Others will say I am a “young pup” and have so much more life to live. The cosmetic industry will tell me I need to buy products that help me look and feel young. What do I say? Hello world. I celebrate life!
As my yoga practice continues to grow and change on my mat and in my life, I am constantly reminded that we are all unique and different. This does not make us deficient or bad. How I look and feel at 40 is as different and unique to me as it is for the person turning 40 on the same day or sometime later this year. Although our society works hard to have us all look, feel and act a certain way to be considered “normal,” we know this is not reality for any of us. It is a formula for disaster, fear, prejudices and judgement.
How I am supposed to look on my birthday is similar to the way some teachers currently teach yoga in their group classes. The instructor will call out a pose and everyone is asked to place their body on their mat a certain way and follow the cues perfectly so they are deemed a “good student.” With the “right” amount of dedication and effort, the student (and possibly the teacher) expects themselves to demonstrate and accomplish the pose (or what they saw on Instagram or Pinterest) perfectly. I fell into this illusion for many years as a young teacher with a young body. I didn’t know any better and was following the examples of my teachers. I had to learn the hard way and experienced injuries and frustrations along the way.
Now I know better and hopefully teach in a different way. As a dedicated student to my own personal yoga practice, I experience variations in my mind, body and spirit every time I step on my mat. As an experienced yoga teacher, I have witnessed this as well with my students. I feel it is my job as a yoga teacher to remind students to practice yoga with the body they have TODAY! This also includes evaluating our energy, emotions, and other life circumstances that may bring us out of the present moment.
The latest book I am reading is, “Your Body. Your Yoga.” by Bernie Clark. One of my favorite stories from the book so far is in the “Kalama Sutta when the good people of Kalama ask the Buddha whom to believe as they are confused by the abundance of gurus, monks and teachers claiming to know the truth and dismissing anyone else’s teachings. The Buddha advises them to take as truth only what they can verify for themselves. A person should not be believed simply because he seems learned, has a long white beard, is teaching from an ancient book, has a fancy title or a certificate from a prestigious university, or has written a book. The only method is to evaluate the doctrine personally to see whether it works, whether it diminishes suffering. If it doesn’t, then drop it. The Buddha was both a rationalist and an empiricist.” Bernie Clark reminds us that you are the guru to yourself. You have the final responsibility for your life, for your health, for your yoga practice. If the advice of the yoga teacher doesn’t suit you, don’t follow it. You are unique. The advice is guidance, but it is not a commandment from God!
In the weeks and months to come, I will share additional stories from the book in upcoming classes and newsletters. I will also try to post some pictures and examples on Facebook. I am excited to share with you what I continue to learn and invite you to practice yoga for your body. It is your yoga!