Healing and the power in our yoga

Yoga taught me a lot this week.

I was faced with truly teaching; teaching with an innate reflex; teaching to people who really need yoga.

Let me say that again….teaching to people who really NEED yoga.

And while it was scary, it was ultimately humbling, revealing and transformational for me.

I took on a new private student who is heading into surgery next week. She has cancer.
I had a new student who survived a massive car accident and endured severe injuries that have left one leg shorter than the other.
I had a student show up into class who had major heart surgery.

Now you know what I mean about NEEDING yoga. These yogis are seeking shelter from big storms.

They forced me to take a look at the quality of my own practice, my own teaching.

For the most part I’m a power yoga teacher. I know this. It reflects my attraction to fire. It resonates in a part of my spirit that once endured a lot of agony and fear and never fought back.
Folks show up to my classes expecting that flame, that work out, that ass kicking.

I know that’s not what power yoga is about but it’s like a cycle you fall into, a rhythm of its own. It’s like my classes fell into autopilot. Sun salutes, fire postures, a creative mix for a sequence to keep folks from being bored, cool down, savasana. Roll out.

This week presented the opportunity to teach folks who can’t power through. And that’s not a reflection of limitation of mind or will or spirit. They’re not powering through and shouldn’t because it wouldn’t create the least bit of healing (does it ever?).

I was struck by a recent class I attended. I needed to plug back into my own practice (not that I don’t practice regulary, but I needed a real plug-in class). But I didn’t find my peace. I felt pushed and rushed into struggle. I’m all about confronting things that need to be seen and dealt with, but I don’t need my yoga to be a fight. I fight more than enough off the mat.

“You don’t need to power through to find your power.”
This is what the voice inside me said after what seemed an endless chaturanga sequence.

“You have nothing to prove.”
The voice continued.

“What union and peace are you creating in your vessel and your spirit?”

I’ve been sitting with this conversation for a few days now. Reflecting on my connection to yoga, tai chi, Buddhism and the Tao. These are all internal practices toward enlightenment. These are all softer powers and patient practices.

Don’t ever doubt that teachers learn more from teaching than the students do. My new students separately and individually sought a peace they weren’t getting anywhere else. They sought something that would heal them from the inside out, trusting that the spirit needed to be nourished as equally as their bodies.

I got to notice slight transformations as they were introduced to Qigong, Tai Chi and Yoga. Long and heavy sighs of relief. Smiles at being empowered after too much time living in self-doubt or negative affirmations. Wonderment at finding ease inside bodies that have come to represent struggle.

From one student this week: “I survived two yoga classes and that I think this is something that I might not suck at. I have never been one for sports. I only felt mild and not entirely unwelcome pain after and I really, really, really like that part at the end where you just lay perfectly still. Then you get up and have all kinds of energy…It feels really good to do something positive for myself. For a while now I have been busy working full time, being a wife, being a mom and when it came to me time, I was just being a slug. Can’t do that for ever.”

None of this was achieved through militaristic drills of chaturangas (yoga pushups) or surya namasksaras (sun salutation).

Stillness. Seated meditations.
Supported inversions – setu bandha with bolsters.
Softer salutations.
Modified warriors.

I’m grateful for this week of teaching and learning and growth.

My students reminded me that winning battles doesn’t have to mean flamethrowers and nuclear warheads. They reminded me of times in my own life when tapping into the softness, the yield, the surrender, the yin, provided the key to unlock the struggle and invite the healing.

My students taught me to modify my own inner warrior. The healing power yoga warrior.

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