|Coolidge Corner, Brookline|
I noticed the studio excitedly promoting the fact that Saraswathi Jois was going to be in Boston as part of her US tour. I had no idea who she was to be honest, but they seemed PUMPED. She was going to be teaching Mysore Style Ashtanga classes there in the morning this week and some of them were open to all, not just the superstar regular Mysore people. (I take vinyasa yoga classes. Mysore classes are offered every morning in the big beautiful front studio at North End Yoga by Boston Ashtanga Shala and they are a totally different ballgame and one I've never felt totally confident I could play.) I looked into it. Turns out Saraswathi Jois is a big damn deal. She is THE damn deal.
"The 'Mysore Style' Ashtanga method is named after the city where Shri K. Pattabhi Jois lived and taught, and now his grandson R. Sharath and daughter Saraswathi continue his teachings at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute."
Well, okay then. I registered and showed up. It was pretty exciting. When I got there the vibe in the lobby was totally different. It felt like something was about to HAPPEN. It smelled different. There were REAL yoga people walking around. A little less Lululemon and a lot more billowy linen. I felt totally totally clueless and it was refreshing. I chose a spot way off to the side in the back because I truthfully had no idea what I was doing or what to expect and that felt refreshing too. When the class began I noticed that, unlike me, everyone else knew exactly what they were doing and what to expect. They all knew the opening chant. They knew what everything Saraswathi was saying in Sanskrit meant. They knew when to face the back of the room (slightly jarring since that was my hiding spot) and the front of the room, and I knew nothing. I recognized some things from my vinyasa classes, but the class itself was totally different from anything I'd done before, two hours long, and really really challenging.
I left the studio feeling two things: first, I was a special kind of sore. They don't call it Mysore for nothing. (Sorry if that was offensive, I couldn't resist.) Second, I felt peaceful and genuinely happy and had a strong desire to bust out of my comfort zone more often, both on AND off the mat. Here's why:
About three quarters of the way through the class I realized things were moving to a very advanced level, one that was way beyond what I'm capable of physically doing at this point in my yoga journey. Maybe someday. Anyway, I knew that Led Mysore was taught as a series of postures and that once you hit the point where you couldn't really do something, you were to stop. So I stopped and tried to look respectful and calm and like I was meditating or gazing peacefully ahead at nothingness. But I wasn't. I was watching the rest of the class do these really challenging upside down twisty magic trick poses and I was totally blown away. I felt a little jealous and a little bummed that I couldn't join them, but then I realized that there was a strong possibility that some of them might be freaking out. These are serious yoga people who probably have far greater control of their thoughts and emotions than I do, but come on, this was the world's top Mysore teacher watching them do this, they had to be feeling a tiny bit of nervousness.
My mind wandered. I realized that when you're a "regular" somewhere - a fitness class, a running group, a writing class, a community or religious group, a coffee shop, a commuter rail train, whatever - there's a comfort and a familiarity, but there's also a certain level of internal and sometimes external expectation. You do this all the time, you know the drill, and you should do it correctly. When you're new, you just kind of show up and do your best. There's a kind of freedom in that. Sometimes when I'm in class in the morning we'll hit a point where, to be honest, I'm just tired or my legs aren't having it or my back feels weird. I know the option exists for me to take a break, grab a sip of water and hang out in child's pose, but a little voice in my head always says, "Come on, Ann. You do this almost everyday, you're in the front row, stop whining and make it happen."
On one hand, I LIVE for those moments. I love movement and exercise and yoga because I get a strong sense of personal empowerment from meeting a physical challenge. Anytime I start to think I can't do something, I push back really hard, I do it full out, and when the instructor says it's time to come out of the pose? I hold it just a second longer. I like knowing that I'm strong because there were a number of years where I really really really wasn't.
On the other hand, it was so lovely to feel like I could move and breathe and just BE in the class yesterday simply because it interested me and I wanted to try it. I felt pure enjoyment the whole time I was moving and trying to do the poses and follow along, and then I got to just sit there and marvel at what my fellow classmates could do and observe as a master teacher did her thing. There was no pressure to prove anything to myself or anyone else and no pressure to do anything perfectly. It was just fun.
Sometimes I tell people who are new to the BodyJam classes I teach that all you have to do to succeed in class is show up. Once you show up, you've done it. Now you just get to dance. It felt wonderful to adopt that mentality for myself yesterday. I don't make it easy on me. I can be a real bully. I've been talking about this a lot lately with my nearest and dearest. I frequently feel that in order to feel happy things have to be perfect and that all the "shoulds" need to be met. I should eat this. I should wear that. I should get this much sleep. I should have a nicer apartment. I should travel somewhere this summer. I should hit this yoga pose. I should lift this weight. I should be rid of my debt by this date. I try REALLY hard all of the time. It felt so nice yesterday to just enjoy and see what happened. I felt happier than I'd felt in a long time. I don't think I did anything all that well technically, but I did the absolute hardest thing for me perfectly: I didn't worry. I didn't push. I just showed up. And it was great.
Happy Friday, you guys. I hope you all give your internal bully a couple days off and show up and try less and have lots of fun this weekend.