Did I ever tell you about the time I ran out of a yoga class crying?
I was 18 or 19 probably, living in Texas, and homesick for my yoga studio. My first teacher really changed my life, and I was very attached to the way she taught. I missed yoga, though, so I was checking out studios in the area and I went to my first ever vinyasa class. First of all, there was like no meditation. We didn’t stop to feel anything or to breathe, and the teacher never talked about alignment. And the chatturangas were endless.
I had a meltdown. I wanted to scream at this teacher that she was doing it wrong. She said something about ballerina arms, and I lost my shit. I rolled up my mat and left. Another student followed me out and tried to encourage me to come back. “You’ll get the hang of it,” she said sweetly.
“It’s not me!” I said on the verge of a sob. “It’s this class. It’s horrible.” Or something like that. I was emotional and inarticulate. I left that studio without asking for my class fee back. Once in my car, I kicked myself — I could’ve used that $10, but I couldn’t go back in to ask for it.
Looking back, I’m fascinated by that experience. It was clearly a confrontation with my ego. I believed there was a right way to do yoga, and this class flew in the face of my belief, therefore I had a strong emotional reaction to it. What if I had never done yoga before and this was my first time trying it? Then it couldn’t have been wrong in my mind. I only had that reaction because of my attachment to what I believed yoga was supposed to be. My suffering was created by my attachment.
It took me a very long time to see that.
Aparigraha. Non-attachment. What if I could let go of my presuppositions about what yoga is “supposed to be” and just do my practice? What if I could allow that another person’s yoga is their own, their path is their path, their choice is their choice? What if I could accept the certainty of loss, of being wrong, of dying, and go on living anyway? What if I didn’t latch on to every shiny object that came my way? What would life feel like if my hands were open to give and receive without clutching?
Now that I’ve matured a bit (not too much), I wish I could write an apology letter to that teacher, or maybe a thank-you note for the realization she gave me quite by accident. Of course, I’m still attached to a lot of things, including my ideas about yoga. That’s just part of being human.
Photo by Francisco Carbajal