There’s a reason I love this photo, and it has nothing to do with the fact that it shows me in pindasana pose. What I love about this photo is that it was taken by a friend, and in the background you can see another friend in final relaxation, and another doing amazing backbends while our teacher, the incredible Tim Feldmann, hangs back until she needs to come up.
What I love about this photo, in short, is that it showcases the beauty of a Mysore room. Each person moving through their yoga practice alone, yet united by a strong purpose, and held in the space of a yoga teacher’s gaze. A moving diversity of body types, dreams, exertion and rest.
Since I came back from my intensive in Miami, I’ve been so grateful to assist my teachers for Saturday Mysore. For the record, here’s what I’ve learned about yoga from being a Mysore assistant.
Your practices are so beautiful. Not because you look like Kino when you get there, though some of you do. But because you pause on your way in to steady your breath before twisting into Marichyasana D. Because you’re terrified but willing to try Bhujapidasana again. Because you’re rolling on your own to exit Garbha pindasana, one softly curved vertebrae at a time. Because through the repeated practice of silence, breathing and asana, your body and spirit have taken on a grace you do not perhaps know you possess.
You are SO hard on yourselves. I thought it was just me. But in the course of assisting, I’ve heard you say to: I can usually do this better. I’m so stiff today. And I’ve quietly witnessed the tears you blink away, the look of defeat as you wipe the sweat away. So I want to say this-and yes, sometimes I’ll need YOU to say it to ME–You got to your mat today. You did your practice, breathing in and out of every posture, even if you did cry. So you did well today. Every stone in the wall of the cathedral is useful and contributes to the solidity of the structure. All practice is good practice.
You are stronger than you think. Abhyasa—practice—builds physical and spiritual muscle. But it also gives us the willingness to look beyond our own limitations. But I don’t bind on this side. Hmm, is your knee ok? Shoulder? Ok, I think you DO bind on this side. And also—Wow! You got up into headstand today. Vairagya—surrender. Surrender to your strength, too. You are more than what you seem, and what you might be is so much gentler and bigger and more brilliant than you can imagine.
Go easy on you. Well, I’m sick today, but I want to practice. Please be compassionate to yourselves. Do some Sun Salutations and see how you feel. Ashtanga is a practice of healing…not destruction.
Listen. In assisting in the Mysore room, I’ve relearned something important. Likely something everyone else already knew, but just in case…Teaching is a form of listening. Practice is a form of listening. In becoming attuned to your own body, you create space for the truth of your life to bubble up. In assisting and teaching others, you hold space for them to listen to themselves. To hear someone breathe a little more deeply as you press them softly into a squish (forward fold), to know when someone needs help to come out of a pose and calm down is a blessing. It is a privilege to be able to offer others the chance to listen deeply to their souls.
I’m grateful every day that I’m learning to listen.