On one side of me, my neighbour blundered across my mat to get to her place. She’s regular at the studio, regular enough to know better. I suppressed my sigh and my frown and tried to let go of the judgments and the irritation. On the other side of me was a girl who was new to the studio, a wannabe trainee teacher checking out the studio. She looked a little flustered. I said hi and gave her a smile. “Ok?” I didn’t really want to talk, but she was clearly tense and I could afford to be generous. “Where’s the teacher going to go?” she whispered anxiously as the room started to fill up with more students. As I explained that the teacher didn’t demonstrate but moves around the room observing and helping individuals where needed, her eyes widened. “I’m a very visual learner” she confided. I told her she would be fine: the teacher’s very good and she clearly knows something about yoga already if she was contemplating TT. I hoped to put a gentle end to the conversation.
As more students arrived, we all shuffled our mats about to make space for them. Her eyes widened still further. She was anxious about the lack of room; didn’t some students find the closeness to others difficult, she herself was uncoordinated and she might bump into me. How would it all work? Surely no-one could practise like this? I offered some small reassurances. After all, I’m used to this place and the ways of the class, but there was a time when I wasn’t and new studios still intimidate me with the different rituals and norms.
Even after the teacher came in and offered a wonderfully slow and settling intro which drew me right in, my new neighbour continued to give off flustered vibes. I constantly sensed her looking at me. Did she really need a visual aid to follow the flow? Was she assessing my practice? Was she anxious about physical proximity? None of these things were my concern. I was in my own practice. I kept my face neutral, my gaze where it needed to be, refusing to catch her eye, even as I felt her willing me to share some moments of intimacy with her. “Ooof, it’s too hot” she sighed theatrically at one point, pulling off her long-sleeved top. A bead of sweat dripped off my nose as I tipped forward into Utkatasana (‘intense pose’ indeed!).
I might not have warmed to my yoga neighbours from the off, but I ended up grateful to them. Somehow the potential distraction on the mat next to me acted as a tool for keeping my focus steady. I experienced a heightened awareness of my body’s movements, without any of the doubts and anxieties that usually arise. I just was. Being yoga, not doing yoga, as my teacher says.
When I got home after class the intensity of the practice hit me. Hubby discovered me sitting on the floor in the kitchen where I’d simply subsided as a rush of relief overwhelmed me, physical tensions suddenly melting away and sweeping some emotional blockages with them. What happened, he demanded. “It was Tāḍāsana” I sobbed, smiling up at him through my tears. “It was so amazing; I finally felt it”.
What’s the ‘it’? A peaceful moment in this form. It might be a simple standing shape, but it’s my nemesis posture, a place I never feel at home. And today, so unexpectedly, a precious few breaths where the world stopped and I stood still. My alignment felt perfect and natural, no efforts, no holding myself up, not a hint of standing too-carefully to attention under my teacher’s gaze. It was simply me, from feet to crown, being in my yoga. My skin felt as though it stretched slightly, allowing me to be absorbed into the air around. My shoulder blades relaxed as I’ve never allowed them before, my feet alive and subtly energising my whole form. I expanded into infinity. I breathed in this moment and I wanted it to last an eternity.
Later in class the teacher suggested we could make 2020 the year to come to love Uṣṭrāsana. Maybe it’s that for him, but year of Tāḍāsana would work for me.