People come to the yoga mat for many different reasons. Some come for challenging asanas (poses/postures), some come to reduce stress, some come to the mat as a spiritual practice. The challenge, as a yoga teacher comes when there are all of these people in the same group class.
Recently I was lamenting to my teacher that I was struggling with this dilemma. Do I give the students what they want or what they need. He wisely replied "That is a dilemma that has nothing to do with yoga."
As I pondered this reply I began to think about why I show up on the mat and why I want to teach yoga.
When I think back to my very first yoga class I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought it would help me relax.
It didn't the first day. It frustrated me because I didn't know what the heck the teacher was talking about.
I was frustrated because I thought we were going to be "doing" more. I was lying on the dirty gym floor for savasana and I remember thinking "I can't believe I paid $110. to lay on this dirty floor for 10 minutes".
But something kept me going back, week after week. What was that? After a couple of weeks I began to look forward to that class. I began wanting to practice at home so I started reading. I discovered this lovely bookstore on South Street, Garland of Letters. I bought a book called Raja Yoga. I read it but I didn't understand any of it. But something kept me going back for more. What was that?
Somewhere along this yoga journey I bought a book called The Upanishads. Again I read the book but didn't understand any of it. I read it again and again. Sometimes cover to cover, sometimes randomly. I began to see that yoga was so much more than simply an excerise to help me relax. It's a way of life.
When we come to the mat with an open mind and an open heart we learn so many valuable lessons. Sometimes the lesson we need to learn is not something we would necessarily choose to learn but it's something we NEED to learn. For me, that's acceptance. There are situations in which we have no control. (Sorry, pitta people - not even you can control everything, all the time). Maybe for you it might be that you need to learn patience, or learn to release more in challenging situations.
I don't always know what I need. All I know for sure is that when I come to my mat (and to my life) with an open mind and open heart I always get exactly what I need.
A passage from the Upanishads:
"The shining Self dwells hidden in the heart. Everything in the cosmos, great and small, lives in the Self. He is the source of life, truth beyond the transience of this world. He is the goal of life. Attain this goal! Take the great bow of the sacred scriptures, place on it the arrow of devotion; then draw the bowstring of meditation and aim at the target, the Lord of Love. The mantram is the bow, the aspirant is the arrow, and the Lord the target. Now draw the bowstring of meditation, and hitting the target be one with him." --- Mundaka Upanishad
Why do I come to the mat? Because there I learn what my true nature is. In yoga we call it the Atman. That aspect of the Divine which is in all of us. Why do I teach yoga? Because it's my duty to share what I've learned with others. If you're interested in a getting a "yoga butt" - you'll need to look elsewhere. If you're interested in living your best life in accordance with the ancient practices of yoga. You've found yourself a companion for the journey. Life is unfolding moment by moment. Enjoy it.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,