Lessons and My Yoga Practice

“…each moment of my day offers me the opportunity to choose between pain or peace.” ~ Rolf Gates in Meditations from the Mat

People who know me are aware of my passion for yoga, and specifically for the lessons I learn on my mat that I am able to transfer into my life. One such lesson started last summer and has recently revealed itself to me in a new way.

I began practicing at a different studio early last year at the suggestion of a friend, who had no idea the depth of my personal struggles at the time. I immediately found a sense of peace and calm with this practice that I had not experienced through my intermittent yoga practice before. Like I’ve heard…when the student is ready, the teacher appears…and I was ready.

On the 4th of July, I went to an early morning class and was not surprised to find a nearly empty studio. I was spending a lot of time up in my head those days, so I welcomed the opportunity to spread out my mat and practice without the distraction of other people inches away from me. I settled in to my usual spot by the window, and was somewhat shocked when a man put his mat down directly behind me on the otherwise empty back row. Again, I was up in my head saying, “Why couldn’t he get in one of the nine other spots on that row instead of RIGHT BEHIND ME?”…and it was downhill from there.

As soon as the teacher led us into child’s pose to start the class, I felt a tap on my arm, something I had never experienced before in yoga and haven’t since. I turned my head to see the guy from behind me squatting beside my mat, “Excuse me, but I’m going to have to ask you to take off your watch.” Appalled, I responded, “Are you serious?” “Yes,” he said. “It’s going to distract me for the whole class.”

Now remember, this guy had about 40 other spots he could have been in for this class instead of right behind me, so I was furious. I jerked my watch off and tossed it over by the wall, giving him the “Are you happy now?” look, and clearly I wasn’t.

So for about 87 minutes of the 90-minute class, I stayed mad. I went over and over in my head how awful it was that this guy had violated my personal yoga space so HE wouldn’t be distracted. I mulled over how it would have been different if he had said we don’t really need to know what time it is in yoga, and wondered why he didn’t ask the teacher to take off her bright ORANGE watch, when mine was only flat black. I allowed this guy to steal my practice from me, gave him the power to keep me in my head instead of on my mat, and obviously I haven’t forgotten it. The lesson I took away from that day was that I often give people power over me by resisting them, taking things personally, when it would be much easier for me to say, “Sure…I’ll allow you to be You. It’s not a problem.” It would not have hurt me to take my watch off, let it go, and get on with my life…

As is usually the case with my yoga practice (and my life!), things continue to unfold and be revealed, and these epiphanies are now a source of great delight for me. This past weekend, again at an early morning yoga class, the “watch guy” walked in to the studio. Although I practice several times a week, I have never seen him since that day in July, 2009. This time he put his mat in the middle of the front row, and since I was two rows back, he was clearly in my line of vision. I try very hard to keep my practice and my focus on my mat, and some days I’m more successful than others, but I couldn’t help noticing what this guy was doing every time I faced forward. In nearly every pose, he turned his head left and right to see what the people on either side of him were doing. At first I thought it was my imagination, so I became curious and watched more closely. It was obvious that he knew the poses, he didn’t need a model for what to do, he was simply checking out the pose of the woman on his right, and the man on his left…hmmmm.

Although I believed I had long ago moved past the watch incident, a new feeling of compassion rose up in me for this man who appeared to be more concerned with what was going on around him than what was going on within him. I have no way to truly know what he was thinking, but it seemed his focus was purely external, and I felt sad for him.  Aha…two new lessons for me. #1. I can have compassion for someone, even when I don’t understand where they are on their journey, and #2. I am grateful for the times when I’m able to shift my focus to my own internal point of reference, instead of gauging myself based on something external…and how much happier and healthier I am when I stop comparing myself to other people.

If you are struggling with finding your internal point of reference…your true Self…or are having trouble letting go of resistance and control in your personal relationships, perhaps we can help. We offer unique therapies to help you uncover and access your Self, with or without a therapeutic yoga practice. Make an appointment today to begin your own journey…



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