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"Yoga is the martial art of the soul, and the opponent is the strongest you've ever faced: your ego."
I stumbled across this quote as I was looking for inspiration this morning (read: surfing Facebook) on Yogasync.tv's page. How appropriate. I am humbled daily by my yoga practice, but my class last night was one of those times, you know? You feel your ego being sucked out through your fingertips, and by the end of the class you find yourself crashing to your knees, falling prostrate on your chest in Child's Pose.
Let me back up a bit here. I regularly teach classes at the YMCA of Austin - Townlake Branch in Austin, Texas. I love it! However, one caveat of working at a community rec center is that the multi-dimensional rainbow of members leaves for a lot of variation in tastes and preferences.
Some people walk into my class and feel an immediate connection with me and my teaching style, which amazes me. I feel so much gratitude for it every day. However, there are also members who are looking to try something new, and come to find that I, or my music choices or teaching style, are not their cup of tea. If you've ever taken a chance creatively, you've made the choice to open yourself up to criticism as well as praise. It doesn't matter how many times it happens; every time that someone doesn't care to accept what you offer, it is truly humbling.
So, about my class last night: I drank an iced vanilla latte a few hours before class, after having given up my daily cup of coffee as a New Year's resolution. I felt like my entire body was twitching. My mind was racing, and I was allowing it to be outside of my body, rather than being present in the moment. Halfway through the class, a new student who had shown up late and struggled through the first 45 minutes packed up her mat and left. I was shaken, but only slightly, and continued on with class.
THEN, horror of all horrors, I lost my place in the sequence. We repeated the left side. DOH! I laughed it off, I apologized, and we moved on. Ten minutes later, the second member left the class. I clasped my fingers together to steady my quivering hands.
I had a decision to make. I could get angry, which is my immediate response when I'm feeling vulnerable. I could hastily finish with class, while silently cursing those students who, for whatever reason, didn't stay to finish. My second option, and the path I thankfully chose to take, was the exact opposite.
I brought the class back into Tadasana at the tops of our mats. We took a few deep breaths. I encouraged the class to reconnect with their breath. I needed a moment. Even yoga teachers get flustered. Even yoga teachers get lost. Even yoga teachers lose their focus of the present moment, and monkey-mind chatter takes over.
Standing there, allowing my mind to quiet and my breath to slow, I finally felt re-centered as I lead the class toward Savasana. This humbling thing called being a human is an experience that we all share.
There is no room for ego in yoga. When we step on to our mats, whether we are a teacher or it's our first class, we are choosing to bow before the eternal light within each of us, and within each other.