This last week I was invited to present at a local high school, George Mason, for an advanced psychology class. I spoke about the use of several limbs of yoga as a way to manage stress and create a more sustainable self. After a little interactive talk and some real time technique practice of pranayama (breath work), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) we did asana (postures).
The students made me smile as they spread out their limbs on the mats (donated by Hugger Mugger for my offerings to teach in community settings such as this) like baby giraffes first settling their feet onto the ground. Some legs were a bit steadier than others, due to prior exposure to some of the stances. I was pleasantly surprised to see only three of the students had never done any for of asana before. A complete opposite experience for the teens I do leadership and youth empowerment work with in Los Angeles and other cities. No matter which place or what the background of these young folks I am doing this work with there is one common thread – an air of giddiness. An energy so intoxicating the giddy overtakes me making me smile bigger and often pulling a chuckle up and into the space.
Yesterday I did my own asana practice in a new group of people and with a new teacher. I’ve chosen to step up to Level 2 classes in my practice after taking the Anusara immersion over the last two months. My time on the mat has become mixed lately as I attempt more challenging poses for my body. The ability to actually press all the way up into Urdhva Dhanurasana at all and then with no assistance from the wall is major for me. Add to that getting up into Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) without fear! And then in my home practice on Saturday I did all of these and I held Bakasana for at least 10 seconds without falling out. Brilliant!! Somehow when I am home I stay so incredibly present I feel unstoppable. Then when I get into a room of people with a teacher I become doubtful. So I tried the teens’ technique on myself yesterday as I engaged in a more rigorous practice – bringing in the giddy. It was lovely.
The teacher, Maria, also offered us a framework for our almost two hours together. “Imagine you have a bucket on your right,” she instructed. “It is for thoughts and beliefs of the past.” Our mat was to be the place of the present. She suggested we put all our previous conceptions and notions of our practice into the bucket as we butted up against them in our movement of body and mind muscles. “And on your left is the bucket of the future.” She didn’t elaborate as much on this one though I knew exactly what I needed to put in there. All my shoulds, all my I wish I coulds, and any spare ideas of chores needing to be done when I returned home after class.
Kurplunk went thought after thought of disbelief into the bucket. I quickly tuned into her focus for the class – the place highlighted in my body for the most need of development. The place I am constantly doing the most intense work to build muscle. The place where every teacher who lies eyes on me guides me to “engage more.” The place where each of them put their hands on me to assist me in making muscles, some of which I can not feel, move in and down my back. It is often the place of the greatest angst and physical soreness for me. A blessing? Sure I can define it that way. Her adjustments reminded me once again of where my lats and rhomboids need to hold my scapula even “more deeply” onto my back side. Frustration started to its’ journey toward the rims of my eyelids and could easily have overtaken into a deep source of pain in the past. Instead when I felt the tears I brought in the giddy. I thought of my young men and women earlier in the week who worked with what they had. I envisoned them and a smile eecked its way onto my face. The rising corners of my lips, melted my heart until compassion and patience were sitting firmly on my mat in the present. A profound feeling of happiness filled my heart as I left the room and moved out into my day. Yes, truly a blessing.