I have been practicing yoga for nearly two years now, and though I am by no means an expert, I feel I have gained some valuable insight into its philosophy. If you’re not familiar with the concept of yoga, you may think what is most important are the movements and positions you twist your body into. Not so. According to Erich Schiffmann who wrote the book Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, “the purpose of yoga is to facilitate the profound inner relaxation that accompanies fearlessness. The release from fear is what finally precipitates the full flowering of love. In this state you will love what you see in others, and others will love you for having been seen.”
In order to experience that profound inner peace and relaxation, we are encouraged to let go of the thoughts that connect us to our worldly concerns and embrace the serenity which comes as we seek to become one with our true selves. During my yoga class today, I felt that I had reached that particular plane of awareness and wanted to share with you my thoughts during that session, in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way, so that you could experience it, too. First, let me set up the lay of the land.
My yoga class is held in a large room in my neighborhood YMCA. The room has hardwood floors and wall-to-wall mirrors at the front and back of the room. I am always early to class because it is imperative that I have the floor space on the back row in front of one of the mirrors so I can monitor my form, and I must be the second person in that row. It is like church. That spot is my pew and nobody better touch it. We usually have twelve to fifteen people, sometimes more, usually women but not always, who are regulars. Our instructor, Sandy, is petite and cute as a button, and she always puts us at ease, reiterating that yoga is not a competition. We should always do what is best for ourselves and let our bodies be the guide to what we can and cannot do. The lights are turned off, the room lit only by the light from the windows, soft music starts playing, and we begin. Here then were my inner thoughts today:
How does K. get her hair to look like that every time she comes? It’s not natural to look that good every time you show up for class. Well, you just wait. She won’t be looking so perfect by the time she finishes this class. Ha-ha! Look at everyone using their right hands when Sandy said we should be using our left ones. Do they not listen or are they just directionally challenged? Wait a minute…I think it’s me. Oh, I like this part, just bending over and letting gravity pull my upper body down. Eew! Gravity is pulling my cheeks down, too. Hate that feeling. Hope no one is looking. I like being next to the mirror so I can look at my form. I’m doing so much better than when I first started. Dang! Look at my butt! Is that tight, or what! Hope everyone is looking. Just wish I hadn’t worn this shirt because it hangs open when I bend over like this. Um…nevermind. It wasn’t hanging open. That was my stomach pushing it out. Hope no one is looking.
Now come on, Sandy. You really expect us to be able to hold that pose for that long? Drat! I see Ruth is not having any trouble. She’s really beginning to annoy me. I’m going to ignore her and just concentrate on my performance like Sandy said. Say, I can stay bent over like this for a long time. Hours maybe. So eat your heart out, Ruth. Hey, I look terrific in the mirror. Just look at my form. My back is straight, not curved like it usually is, my hand is straight in the air, and look how great my hair looks…oh, wait. That’s not me. It’s K. I’m the one with the round back and the hair mopping the floor. Hard to tell who’s who in the mirror when you’re bent over backwards like a pretzel. I hope that clock isn’t right. Maybe it’s broken. Hopefully, it’s broken. Otherwise, I’m never going to make it to the end of class and Ruth will beat me. Oh, yeah, it’s not a competition. Keep repeating it over and over: It’s not a competition, it’s not a competition…oooh, I think Ruth put her toe down when she was supposed to be balancing. Ha-ha! Beat you, Ruth! Well, it’s about time. My favorite part. We get to lay down on our backs and go into the Final Relaxation. The quiet music, Sandy’s gentle, soft voice taking us to that place of peace and calm…Mmmmmmmmmm. DING! DING! DING! Hey! Someone take that mallet and chime away from Sandy. I was nearly asleep.