by Ann Chrapkiewicz
Are you ready for yoga?
As inclusive as North American yoga wants to be, yoga in its deeper dimensions demands certain qualities.
Are you ready for yoga?
Well, I have a yoga mat and I hydrated well. So yes, I think so.
But the question again: are you ready for yoga?
The yoga clothing companies would like you to think you are. They would like you to picture yourself as one of those long, lithe, young bodies, wearing their pants. And maybe you have that body.
But most people don’t. And the tragedy therein is that you might not think that you are ready for yoga. You might even think you need to look like that in order to start yoga.
Getting ready for yoga
After spending 3 days and nights off the grid (literally), it was a joy to come back to my other favorite place – the hot room – on Labor Day to teach the evening class.
30 humans prepared themselves. They were ready.
They brought themselves to class and faced themselves in the mirror for 90 glorious minutes of their days off.
You may have heard from various sources that that is really the hard part of the class. To stand there, to look in the huge mirrors at your own self, and to not try to fix anything. Not to mess with your out-of-place hair, not to fidget, and especially not to try to solve any problems your mind has decided needed solving.
Instead, you stand still and breathe. You physically transcend and transform the mental disturbances. You live so fully in those uncomfortable moments when you choose to only breathe.
In any case, we had a fun little exchange tonight in the front-and-center, right in front of that giant wall of mirrors, 70 feet long and over 8 feet high.
“I am not ready for yoga.”
A week or two ago, a retired man – visiting from the Middle East – started taking classes with us. It was his first time practicing yoga, but even before he took his first class, I could tell he was ready.
And tonight I found out that he is much more ready than he thinks.
This man is cheerful. He laughs at himself. He stands in the front row in the center of the room. He laughs and smiles with me when I fold up his hand towel and have him hide it under his mat so it will not tempt him. We discuss the salty sweat that drips into his eyes.
He tries so hard. He communicates – often only with his eyes – when he needs a break. He listens to me speaking constantly in his not-native language. He persists. He is already loved by our morning regulars.
At one of those special, irreplaceable, and almost indescribable group of moments that happen in class, it all came out in a little dialogue tonight. All of a sudden, in between standing postures, I fully understood something and immediately shared to him:
“Mr. M, you are SO ready for yoga!”
He replied, in friendly disagreement, and with a smile:
“No, I am not. She is.”
He signaled with his eyes to the young woman standing immediately to his left. From outward appearances, she is young, lean, flexible; the yoga “type”.
(And certainly she may be just as internally ready for yoga as he is. She in fact has an extremely calm and focused practice. But that was not the point here.)
I said something like – and I meant:
“NO. YOU are ready. She is bendy and beautiful. Being flexible has absolutely nothing to do with being ready for yoga.”
I could not stop there.
“YOU are ready for yoga, Sir!
Because you are not afraid.
You are not afraid of the mirrors, you are not afraid of me, you are not afraid of yourself.
You are not afraid of the yoga process. You are ready.”
Be not afraid! That is the only thing – and everything – you will need.