When I was offered the chance to teach a Yoga Core class on a regular basis, I was hesitant. How was I supposed to step on my mat week after week and teach eighty minutes of core-focused yoga? I don't know that many different variations on crunches - won't we get bored?!
As usual, I was wrong and the universe was right, and I've been leading this Yoga Core class for almost a year now, and after my first class with my teacher, Gioconda Parker, since I began back in November, I can say with certainty that it has changed my entire practice.
Here's the thing about yoga - if you're doing it right, every class is core-focused! Not just because a strong core is important to maintaining a healthy, injury-free body, which it is, but because the very purpose of our yoga practice is to focus inward; to turn the mirror back on ourselves and observe. Yoga is the process of peeling back the layers of who we aren't, to discover and make space for who we truly are. Only then can we make real and lasting change within ourselves, and only then can we make real and lasting change within our world.
This epiphany, as usual, accompanied a 2.5 hour practice with Gioconda at The Woodlands Yoga Studio, which, by the way, is a beautiful space and you should totally check it out if you are in the area. We talked about Ganesh, and she challenged us to stand in the presence of our challenges, so that we could face them, and so that we could take action to move through them. A timely message for the state of our country and our world at this moment, but also a message we could all take to heart, to ruminate on during our practice to first observe the challenges placed in front of our own individual selves.
Like Gioconda, I came to my yoga practice incredibly flexible, but disproportionately weak. I over-extended in my joints, and hung out in all of my extra-bendy places like my hips and my low back, often causing pain and injury to myself along the way. It was clear pretty quickly that my challenge was to find balance; to get grounded and stable in my own body.
Arm balances were an especially audacious enemy. Any time an instructor called out bakasana in class, I recoiled into my own self hatred and shame for not having mastered the simplest of arm balances in all these years. I was a teacher for pete's sake - I should be able to do crow pose!
But something has changed in me these last couple of months. Arm balances don't scare me as much as they used to. They're still challenging, yes, but they feel achievable. I feel like I'm working toward something, rather than just falling on my face in vain again and again and again. I feel strong!
I discovered yesterday that I still can't get my left leg extended straight on that side in eka pada koundiyanasana, or extend my back leg fully in eka pada galavasana, and forget about lolasana - my bottom foot doesn't feel any further away from the floor. But they all feel doable. They all feel like I'm working toward something. I'm making strides and it feels so amazing and empowering.
It's times like these that I feel almost evangelical in my yoga journey. I want to shout it from the rooftops and sing it's praises to anyone who will listen. It's not about doing crazy arm balances, or backbends, or standing on your head. It's about making the impossible possible, it's about not giving up, and it's about finding out what you're really made of and being so grateful for it.
So, to bring this story back around full circle, this is in big part thanks to my Yoga Core class! In my once a week commitment (Mondays at 9am!) to focus eighty minutes on the very center of my being, on the strength of my core, as well as some serious bandha work. I've gotten strong, and I've become clearer in my intentions, which for me is what I hope to bring to every class that I step in front of to teach. If you have the chance, join me Mondays at 9am at Sundance Yoga Studio: Friendswood (shameless plug!) If not, grab your mat and get your booty to the nearest core class, or bandha seminar, even if the nearest one is on your computer.
Rumi writes, "Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world, today I am wise so I am changing myself." It's easy to point fingers and place blame on whoever we feel is at fault for our own pain and suffering. The only behavior that we have control over, the only interaction we have with the world is our own. If you want change, it's time to start with you.