Namaste…and Shut Up, You Idiot!

This week, for the first time ever, I went to a different yoga class every single day.

Why have I never done this before? It gets expensive. I used to be busier in the evenings. I had a better home practice. Honestly, I don’t know. I didn’t make a conscious decision–it just sort of happened. I even woke up super early to go to a 6:30 class before work one morning. And it felt fabulous.

But I noticed, as the week went on, a disturbing thing started happening: I became more and more critical of my teachers. Monday through Thursday were amazing.  Then a snarky inner voice wedged itself into my brain on Friday evening and continued into Saturday morning’s class. The voice said things like, “Seriously? That’s not how this pose is supposed to be taught,” and, “Can’t you see half your class is falling out of the pose right now? This is way above these people’s skill level!” and, “OK, stop talking now and let us relax in peace,” and–worst of all– “JUST SHUT UP, YOU IDIOT!!!”

OK. Inhale, exhale. What happened?!?

I’ve felt annoyed at teachers before, but always managed to bring a positive outlook to it. I’d tell myself, “You’re learning what NOT to do when you’re up in front of a class!” or, “Now you can appreciate all the good teachers so much more!” And it’s true; I generally do learn from other teachers’ mistakes and walk away from class feeling grateful for the experience.

Like last week. One of my new favorite teachers is very irreverent; she says things like, “I’m sorry if I’m a little out of it today. I had champagne last night. I’m not perfect, I’m just a yoga teacher!” But she really knows her stuff, and I have a lot of respect for her teaching. So when she chirped, “Yoga comes from the word for yolk, like an egg, so everyone, try to feel like an egg right now!” (–it most certainly does not; it comes from the word for yoke, meaning union–) I managed to smile at her and muse on our imperfect translations of Sanskrit, and how much is up to our own interpretation, anyway, and even tried to feel a little bit eggy, just for her sake.

But this weekend, I found myself grinding my teeth or mumbling curses in my head whenever a teacher held a pose too long, or seemed to be talking for the sake of hearing his own voice, or stared at herself in the mirror instead of noticing that multiple students were doing a posture incorrectly (and potentially setting themselves up for an injury).

The first line of the Yoga Sutras (the basic 196 “threads” of ancient yogic philosophy) is very simple, and functions as both a preface and an important lesson: Atha Yoganusasanam, or Now begins the instruction of yoga.

Now as in each and every present moment. As my first teacher used to say, “Yoga did not begin three years ago when you went to your first yoga class, or last week when you finally touched your toes in a forward fold. Yoga will not begin next month when you buy that new pair of Lululemon pants or next year when you lose five pounds and have the cute yoga butt you’ve always wanted. Yoga begins now, and now, and now.”

And now. My body feels great from this week of intense practice, and my mind’s been humbled. Maybe I fell into the muddy, murky “I know everything!” hole, and now I’m sheepishly dusting myself off. I’m going to try practicing at home all week and see where that gets me. At least I’ll be cursing and/or laughing at myself, right?

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