Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lessons from Yoga

What happens when you walk in late to yoga? Well, it wasn't me today, but the yoga teacher for our beginner yoga class at the local YMCA had to get firm with some students about arriving after the starting relaxation time had begun. She huffed a little bit when someone came in late, then said, We'll have to talk about this later as a class, as adults.

After we finished the lying down stretches and sat up, she said again, Let's talk about this coming-in-late issue as adults. Everyone agreed that it would be okay for her to lock the door when it was time to start and then unlock it after the five minute relaxation. She encouraged us to arrive on time and promised that she would do better at ending her last class on time so she could start this one on time. It was all very pleasant and reasonable.

Then she said, See that's why I don't have kids, because you can't have a reasonable discussion like that with them. Everyone laughed. One woman said, Well, you can, but they won't listen. The yoga teacher said, Well, when I have a discussion, I like to get a response. If I just wanted to talk to myself, I would.

Because I have a hard time quieting my mind, I considered why she might have said this. My first thought: If you don't have kids, you don't know what you're talking about. My second thought: Well, she may be super flexible and skinny, but that's because she doesn't have kids. Several thousand unflattering (to me) thoughts later, I thought to wonder if she wanted to have kids. I wondered if she'd tried, struggled with infertility or even lost babies. I don't believe all women want to have children, but I wondered if her comment could be a defense mechanism. Maybe she was used to (and tired of) explaining to people that she didn't have any children. It doesn't really make any difference, but I tried to open myself up to all the possibilities of who she was and how she might have struggled. On the heels of my breastfeeding post, I wanted to be generous to all women and their lives.

And then I tried to go back to the breath. Or to balancing my right ankle over my left knee while squatting with my back arched and my fingers sliding down the mirror in front of me.

Later, but while we were still seated, someone raised her hand. Ah, a question, said our yoga teacher. The student said, Could I ask you to move a little to the right or to the left, so I could see you? The teacher said, Yes, but, next time, how about you move?

This time I thought, Wow. Was that passive-aggressive? Or just confident and in charge? Maybe no yoga teacher likes teaching newbies. We're like the remedial English class: all the senior teachers fight over the Honors and AP classes, but someone gets stuck with the 9th grade remedial class. And resents it. Most of the time during the class, I felt like she was enjoying herself, but maybe there are times when it gets to her.

I like yoga. I feel beautiful when I'm doing yoga, which is not how I normally feel when I'm, say, cardio kickboxing. When I'm doing yoga, I feel powerful, like my body can do more than I thought it could. Yoga makes me feel conscious of how I'm standing and moving at other times of the day.

Plus, yoga is one of the few forms of exercise that I can do while my toe looks like this.

More on that later. Maybe.

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