A try to take a yoga class every week, though lately I have been missing out because I’ve either been under the weather or under work pressure. Today, after a week of ups and downs, I need to stretch and breathe and take care of myself – not just my body, but my psyche too. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit for “union” and has the same root as the word “yoke,” as in the yoke that connects an ox to its cart. For me, in order to practice yoga, I have to start by disconnecting, before I can connect. In order to get to a class, I have to pull my head and my body away from my computer and whatever I’m working on. I have to change from my regular clothes and put on my stretchy yoga gear and I have to walk away from my home, as I rarely manage to practice in my own house. Once in the class, my placing my mat on the floor, I am creating my own space to practice, symbolically removing myself from the rest of the room so that I can center myself and focus on my practice.
But after the initial disconnecting, yoga is all about connecting. For the time that I am in that class and on that mat, I am grounding myself to the earth, I am breathing along with my movements and am tethering my thoughts to a tree within my mind to prevent them from run off in 100 directions. I am also connecting with my fellow students, who are there for the same reasons as I am – to build strength and flexibility in mind and body. In my better yoga classes, I also feel a strong connection with my teacher – my guide through this whole process. Today my teacher was Amanda, a woman whose warmth and enthusiasm makes is reward enough for making it to class. Though she exudes athleticism, she isn’t at all intimidating as a teacher; instead, with her ever-present dazzling smile, she offers words of encouragement and suggests subtle adjustments to individual students throughout the class. She also strikes the perfect balance between teaching forms and recounting personal anecdotes, which is not always easy for a teacher. I have avoided some teachers because the class is more about them than about yoga. But for Amanda, the class is definitely about yoga and about connecting with her students, wanting them to share in the passion she feels for the practice. Today, I gave her a pair of purple Nepalese yoga pants that I loved but never wore. I hope they fit as I’m sure they’d look super cute on her. If they don’t, she can pass them along to another yoga gal, in a sort of sisterhood of the traveling yoga pants. Either way, I was happy that giving them to her allowed me a chance to talk with her a little more and strengthen our yoga connection.