We know what we like is usually code for we like what we know. If your goal, as a human, is to continue to grow and stretch; you will occasionally hit limits. While I know that getting out of my comfort zone and learning new things is one of the joys of life; honoring limits is part of knowing myself. We get to set our own boundaries.
Stretching is good, reaching new levels of fulfillment is the goal, but doing things that are morally uncomfortable or just plain wrong in the name of stretching is a bad idea. “Anything past a stretch is a tear,” says Brian.
Yoga is about literally stretching. My yoga teacher, Brian, honors the basic principal of Yoga: it comes from a spiritual tradition. He continually reminds us ”the Yoga is on the inside” and to “honor the stretch” (stop when you feel the stretch and hold the position.) I’ve learned to look forward to my 3 weekly classes, the combination of meditation and exercise is exactly what I am looking for. I’m getting stronger, more flexible and more confidant as my practice continues.
So, as some Sunday plans fell apart, I thought I’d try Birkram Yoga. I went to a studio across town, arriving just in time to see about 30 people dressed more for the beach than my little yoga classes with Brian. I knew it was hot yoga and seeing skinny people in almost no clothing was a good thing, I think I’m going to like this! And I did, until a tat covered, thong clad House Elf got up on a platform and started barking and counting. “I could explain this first position for hours to you or we could just move on and have a class, just do the best you can,” he harrumped as he looked right at me.
“Uh oh”. My butt clenched.
And he shouted on, rapid fire commands like a tiny, nakee square dance caller, “Fingers interlocked, elbows in your ears, butt cheeks unclenched, weight on your heels, breathe in, 6-5-4-3-2-1, don’t bend your knees, dosee doe, swing your …” I was in more than a little overwhelm and staring at a confused overweight guy in a mirror (me) while Barney Fife continued to do his Platoon Sargent thing… I felt like an extra on a sixties beach movie; Frankie and Johnnie See Aliens on Birkram Beach.”
And then: I was in my car. I made it through 15 minutes of a ninety minute class, the phrase, “Not for me” escaping my lips as I fled pass the woman who was preparing to lock the door to the studio, keeping the rest of the Birkram cult safe for the incoming spaceship and kool aid break. I want my Mantra!
You know what? It wasn’t for me. I don’t mind heat, love exercise, but, I can go for a walk in the Florida sun or spend 40 minutes on the elliptical to get my aerobic workout in. I won’t call this hot aerobics class “Yoga” anymore than I’d call sitting on Santa’s lap “Christmas worship.”
I go to yoga because yoga is on the inside.
If you spend anytime on this earth, you know that change happens. Yesterday’s liberal is today’s conservative, cuss words of the past are commonplace here in the future and even former sexual taboos find themselves being discussed in polite society. Change happens. Religious traditions morph into exercise routines called out by a refugee from a Big and Rich concert and that’s ok. Because, I know who I am and how to honor the stretch.
Thank you Brian.