The hardest yoga of my life…

…was when I went home recently for a visit to my mama’s house. I grew up in a small farming town. Very hick. At a very young age I felt better than everyone else in my community. I remember being in the town parade and waving from the back of a flat-bed truck covered in hay with scarecrows sitting beside me, I think it was the local Buckerfield’s feed company that sponsored the truck and I sat in my rightful spot, above the crowd, removed, waving like the queen. Destined for more better.

Anyway, things haven’t changed much in my small town or my elitism around it. One night my mother invites me to her weekly yoga class, and as a social experiment and because she has lung cancer so she gets everything she wants now- I go.

It’s in the hall of the church I grew up in, where I was confirmed and where I served tea to old ladies.  A woman has set up a circle carpet on the linoleum. It is freezing in the huge hall. We wear jackets and a few of the woman have afghan blankets that I think look like smart ideas until I realize they are using them as yoga mats. We place our mats in a circle around a candle and we check-in. We sit in a circle and spend over 30 minutes talking about who we are and why we are here. I’m shocked at the candor of these strangers. An older woman talks about her need to reconnect to her body, a First Nations woman says she needs to get very quiet and deep within herself, a woman my age begins to cry because today is the anniversary of someone she loved dying and she is very sad.

I tell them that I am a yoga teacher from the city, I am here with my mom and I do yoga so I don’t go insane.

Remember neck rolls, remember shoulder shrugs, remember warming up. We do so many gentle twists I think I’m going to fall asleep. My brain is whirring around, I am making list after list of who I need to call tomorrow or else the world will end and then we get into baddha konasana. I look around and make a mental note that I am better than everyone in the room at baddha konasana and this feels good.

Again I am shocked! If I feel the impulse to win in church basement elder care yoga no wonder it’s so hard for me at my busy city studio. And how have I gotten so far away from the point that I would be sitting here thinking that? I am the person in the room with the most yoga experience, the deepest meditation practice and I am also the biggest bitch. The woman beside me takes child’s pose and starts to weep. God, since when have I allowed myself to do that or even had the impulse to weep uncontrollably.
So I do, I try.

Time is moving slowly, this is a slow class, sequencing is not something she has concern for, neither is flow. We are doing unrelated pose after the other, sitting down, standing up, why isn’t she making this more palatable for me? And since when did I start to notice these things? This woman is teaching me yoga properly, she is gauging the level of the class. She is doing her thing. We are staring into a candle flame. After a 30 minute Savasana and 20 minutes of meditation I am going completely squirley. I understand rest after getting my ass kicked with three back to back one minute Urdvas but this, I did not work for this, I do not deserve to rest.

I want to move, I want to sweat, I want to push things out of me that I don’t like. I don’t want to sit still in a circle of bumpkins who brought the pillows from their beds as bolsters.

She finally hits the gong and my eyes squeeze open. We do another check-out. We talk about how the practice was and what came up for us. The younger woman said while she was moving her body she forgot about her heartbreak, another woman said the pain in her hip is totally gone. They feel connected to themselves, they were still. Women age from 18-70 sitting in a circle talking about how glad they are to be sitting in that circle. And this teacher is making that happen, without her ego, without the best time slot, without the new yoga toes for your face, without music, without variations, she is spreading peace and I am humbled. When it was my time to talk I say, “I have meditated a lot and I still don’t experience a quiet mind, I don’t really expect to anymore”.

She looked at me and said, “I find doing way less than you think you need to do is a good place to start.”

I think about that and I don’t see how this is possible, if I do less, that means less will get done, and in fact I actually want more to get done. I have goals, dreams, aspirations, important things to accomplish to prove my worth. I want to be famous! I want to be rich! Less? That feels very counter intuitive.

But you know what, I sneaked a peek in her donations basket and that lady pulled in way more than the most popular teacher in Vancouver makes in a class at the top studio in the city. She was flush.

This was a yoga class.