Hearing voices

Hubby jokes that I’m a wannabe Ashtangi because I usually take Saturdays off physical practice. It’s not actually planned, it just fits with the flow of my week and I think a day off is good for mind and body. But now I’m on holiday with family my whole routine is out the window and it’s hard to find time to practise on any day of the week. The combination of jetlag, family expectations, Christmas activities and meet-ups with friends has taken over. I’m not sure I’ve gone this long without practice…. ever! How long is it? Actually only a few days, but it feels an eternity to me. Meantime I’ve kept up some physical movement by a bit of stretching on the hot sand on the beach (great for hamstrings and hips) and a bit of show-off inversions and hand balances with my little nephew (great for the ego and lots of fun) and some simple standing balances with my elderly father-in-law (great for compassion and very humbling). But I’ve not found time for a ‘proper’ practice until today.

It didn’t start well. To make space I needed to rearrange the furniture in our small rental apartment and in doing so I dragged the coffee table across my toe and tore a hole in it. There was lots of blood and it gave me a good excuse to collapse onto my mat for a cathartic cry before I even started. The physical movement felt good, the shapes at once familiar and strange. But after a few days of intense family time, with lots of emotional upsets and communication fails, I was feeling in serious need of some grounding and emotional re-balancing. The crying was a necessary release.

The mental commentary to my practice was also familiar and strange. Well-worn narratives of ‘not good enough’ and ‘I can’t’ are ingrained and ever-present, but it’s only on my mat that I get quiet enough to hear them. The break of a few days meant that they were louder than I remember and therefore rather overwhelming. The distance meant I also had the sense of encountering them afresh and seeing how unproductive they are.

I feel a little frustrated that I’ve travelled to the other side of the world and lugged all my emotional baggage with me. But I realise I’ve brought my teacher’s voice along too. When things felt really hard today, I could hear his dispassionate encouragement, how he calmly offers solutions to my endless difficulties and is patient in the face of the many and varied obstacles I create. I allowed the thought of him to soothe me and remind me of my strength and my abilities.

Before I left UK one of my students said she imagines my voice at night when she is stressed and can’t sleep because she finds my teaching style comforting and calming. The thought made me happy for her but also a little disquieted (am I really that to her?). But now I see myself doing something similar!! I guess yoga teachers represent and model for us what we need to find for ourselves. Instead of feeling weird and needy, I am trying to recognise hearing my teacher’s voice of support as a helpful new skill for my practice. It’s been a lot of work this year to acknowledge that I can’t go it alone and that I can ask for help and be open enough to receive it.

I know I am arrogantly impatient of the day when I won’t need my teacher to remind me of things I might already know. But perhaps I could soften a little more into the present and enjoy his help, allow myself to lean on him, trust that for now he is with me in my practice. If it’s good enough for my student, it should be good enough for me too. Or — of she can do it, I could too. I learn so much from my students. They all seem much better at the practice of yoga than I am. 🙂

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