So a modern yoga great has just passed, a renowned teacher, said to be one of the first women to have studied with Pattabhi Jois. The corners of social media I inhabit are full of comment, some of it as banal as could be, some of it genuine and poignant, so much so that it makes for difficult reading, seeming almost an intrusion on private grief. Except that nothing’s private any more.
I didn’t know this teacher, not even close. But I had a brief encounter with one of her more famous students very early on in my yoga life. She talked so passionately about studying with her teacher, about the closeness, the work, the way her teacher knew her so well that she could challenge her out of her comfortable places. It all sounded mysterious and rather frightening. But also kind of wonderful. On some level I crave to be known and understood like this, but I also fear it and resist it.
I’m not sure my work with my own teacher equates in any way to these experiences, though we have known each other some years now and I see him for public class at least once a week, often more, as well as private meetings with some frequency. He taught me most of what I understand about asana and he taught me how to teach. So we’ve totalled a lot of hours together one way or another and he clearly knows and understands some aspects of me deeply. I try to be honest with him. But I also hold myself away, fearing exposure, not wanting to commit fully to the work, metaphorically keeping the door propped open so I could run away if it all got too much.
If we were famous and social media were full of photos of us as student and teacher together, would the camera reveal me looking at him full of love and trust? Would our body language show a connection, a bond, some sort of intimacy? A year ago I would say not. Perhaps now, it might. Just a little. I am learning to trust. Me. Him. Him and me, the relationship we have. It feels mysterious and rather frightening. But it also feels kind of wonderful.
A bit like yoga itself.
A bit like life.