Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Close Encounters (of the cake and yoga kind)

Today has been a good day. I've been productive both physically and emotionally, clearing out the rickety spaces in my mind and joints. I taught early this morning to H, and her son crawled out of bed to join us for some flashy down dogs and giggly breath work. Then I took the subway to the gym--although I admit I mostly wanted to have a steam and a nice relaxing shower rather than work out--and was flipping through Erich Schiffmann's book on the way, looking for little hints and tidbits. A tallish Chinese woman was standing next to me, crowded close as always on the subway. She got my eye because she was about my height--rare to find a woman, or man, my height here--and we smiled at one another. A few moments later she interrupted me and said, Are you a teacher of yuja? And because I'm really smart, I knew she meant YOGA and i said YES! We proceeded to talk very awkwardly about yoga and where we practice. I gave her my name card and she seemed thrilled a)to be speaking in English and b)to be speaking in English about yoga, as of course, was I! I nearly missed my stop because we both had our nose in Erich's book searching for a certain posture she was trying to describe.

Then I left the gym and headed for Shunyi to teach my three afternoon ladies. These three are a trip. They are all in it for 'core' but all end up asleep as soon as they hit the mat and constantly chat with me and each other through out the class. They also almost always end up requesting a "relaxing class". One in particular often will diminish her abilities and make generalizing diagnoses of ailments she thinks she might have. I have the shallow breath, she told me firmly on the first day. The other two have more experience with yoga and move through the class with what appears to be a greater sense of comfort and strength. She has a lot of trouble just being still and finally this afternoon I addressed it.

I've been nervous to talk to her about it because it feels personal. I can sense she feels uneasy in class at times, or embarrassed. And of course I get that. I'm still kind of embarrassed to be in yoga classes--it can feel so vulnerable, wearing tight clothes and twisting your body into weird positions. And there always the students who do it all with grace and beauty and perfect ponytails and not a single pant uttered from between their relaxed lips.

So we talked, the three of us. About breath. I used something I heard once said in a class at Yoga Soup in Santa Barbara, I think, about the breath sending the body into the asanas. It was the most yoga-teacher like moment I've had, facing them on the mats, hearing myself say, Your breath won't send you to a place your body can't sustain. You have to trust your breath to take you into the asana when you're ready--when your breath feels constricted, or tight, or difficult, you've come too far.

We talked about the core, abs, stomach muscles. Feeling light, bandha's, lifting up and out. The whole kitten and caboodle. Is that the phrase?
Anyway, the reason I'm writing about it all now is that after the class was over, this woman was still sitting on her mat, staring at me. Oh, great, I thought. I said too much. So I asked for feedback. Does all that make sense? Do you understand what I'm saying? Her eyes looked a little wet and her voice was quiet. Yes, she said. I need to learn how to breath. I need to be still.

It was the first time I felt like she and I connected, and it was such a pleasant feeling. I know logically it has nothing to do with me and I didn't invent the glory of yoga and breath, but sheesh! It made me feel like a real yoga teacher!

Now of course killing time before evening class. Eating cake. This is the Yogery, after all. And yes, Zen Muffin, I did wear those glasses to teach.


Zen Muffin said...

is that birthday cake???

FrenchToast said...

no it was a napoelon. yummy. custardy vanilla cream sandwiched between thin pie crusts with some hard frosting on top for good measure. i have to say..it was pretty serious cake for 4 in the afternooon. but i'm a pretty serious cake eater.