It's been a while since I posted about yoga. And I think the reason is that just when I thought I'd found the right teacher, the one I really clicked with, she got pregnant and went away to have a baby. (How dare she!)
Like most things, yoga is all about the teacher. You can be doing the most amazing sun salutations on Earth, but if you aren't with a teacher who really speaks to you, it just isn't going to work.
Fortunately for me, I've developed a new yoga teacher-crush. In fact, I'm so in love with this new person's teaching method that I've completely upended my schedule so that I can take her class every Thursday morning from 9:45 to 11:15, which is normally when I'm sitting at my desk.
But it's totally worth it. I come out of there feeling like I've taken a drug. In addition to the stretching, here are five things I've learned about yoga -- and life! -- from working with her:
1) Be prepared. I knew that this lady was the one for me when I noticed her note cards. Some yoga teachers come in with a few things scribbled on the back of a napkin. Others come in with absolutely nothing and wing it. But my yoga teacher comes in with about five to seven incredibly detailed note cards upon which she's written precise instructions for exactly what she'll teach that morning. And you know what? It shows. Her classes have a logic and (dare I say it?) a flow that is the product of strict preparation and hard work. I'm not exactly a slacker, but it's nice to be reminded, outside a work context, that there's a payoff for working hard.
2) Push Yourself. In addition to her preparedness, what I really love about this new teacher is how she structures the class. She starts out really mellow and gets you thinking that it's going to be a gentle class. But as you go on, you start repeating the poses over and over, each time with a bit more difficulty. And you realize that she's actually extending you quite a bit from where you started. I think the reason she does this is to show us all that we can and should do more with our bodies (and ourselves). And sometimes, it's that extra little push that really matters, not just to really get the most out of a given stretch, but to have the confidence to know that you are capable of doing more.
3) Be Encouraging. At the same time, she's hardly a drill sergeant. She's incredibly supportive of the class and really goes out of her way to praise the students, as long as she sees that they are trying. As someone who's currently struggling with how to motivate and encourage my kids to do their best without turning them into pressure cookers, this teaching method is highly instructive.
4) Be Self-Aware. Normally, I hate it when yoga teachers talk too much during class. If it's not about the poses, I really don't want to hear all the poetry and other gobbledygook about self-development, etc. It's too distracting. But this lady won me over when she told a story during the Savasana (corpse pose) about how she'd lost her temper with one of her kids. She narrated how, because of issues with her own parents, she'd lashed out at her child for doing something silly with an art project. It was the way that she told it, and the way my heart ached for both her and her child, that reminded me once again that the very first step towards fixing attitudes and behaviors in yourself that you don't like is -- per Alcoholics Anonymous -- to recognize them. This is so very, very key to parenting, among other things.
5) Breathe. I think it takes a while when you're doing yoga regularly to understand why the breathing is so important. At first blush, it would seem that doing the stretches correctly is way more important than remembering to breathe. I've been doing yoga for nearly four years, and it was only a week ago that the breathing thing really sunk in. As my teacher noted, "Your breath is what centers you. It is what makes you present and anchors the entire pose." And just like that, a light bulb went off. Focusing on the breathing helps you to really zoom in on the here and now, something with which some of us (cough) struggle at times.