Not exactly whom I expected.
When I came to my teacher training I thought I knew what to expect. I made assumptions (and that’s always dangerous, right?) about the kind of people who would be there with me.
I figured it would be lots of women and a few men. (I was right about that.)
I thought I would be the oldest one. (That part I got right too!)
I thought everyone else would be some version of the perfect yogi or yogini: the slim athletic, flexible ones you see in class who can do every pose to the ultimate expression. Name any body part, any at all, and they can get their toes on top of it, wrap both arms around it, or balance on it, all with the grace of Baryshnikov.
These are the yogis I admire for their ability and their beauty, and I try not to be envious. If I can’t do it myself, hey, at least I can see what it’s supposed to look like! I was resigned to being the slightly out of shape older gal in the back of the room just doing my best and trying to keep up, sitting out while they all do the poses that are impossible for me.
And I was wrong.
The participants in this training are here for various personal reasons, and almost all of them are in a point of major transition in their lives, just like me.
There is the newly divorced single mother whose experience in beating cancer has inspired her to lead healing retreats with yoga as a component. There is the sweet pretty 19-year-old who has recently started having irregular heartbeats and is afraid she won’t awaken each morning; pursuing her health through yoga is a way to beat her fears and strengthen her body and spirit.
There are other young people who have discovered that yoga is a way to change their lives and they want to share this with others. One woman just got out of the Army; another just lost her father. A few have reached out to the training after spending time in Ashrams studying meditation.
In an uncertain world, the tender souls who have gathered here to study yoga philosophy and learn how to share the gift with others are all on personal paths to change, and yoga is merely an accessory.
Through the journey of yoga, in each step of the Eightfold path, we are all finding access to deeper places in ourselves. We are searching for many things: peace, calm, health, fitness, knowledge. We are connecting with each other and reaching out in new ways. We laugh. We cry. We grow. It happens during yoga, it’s through yoga, but it isn’t always about the yoga.
How did I not know that?
For I know that in my own journey, yoga is not the only thing that matters. It’s a piece of the whole. Yoga is an ingredient in the pie, but it’s not the pie. I am. Yoga is a rainbow to slide down and I am the pot of gold.
And just for the record, I am not the old lady in the back watching everyone else. I’m keeping up, following the flow. I’m getting into poses I never dreamed I could, and when I do watch others, I am noticing that we all have our body types, young or old, that make it easy or hard to do each particular asana, and it’s different for every one of us. I see changes in us, even after a week. Whether we are teenagers or in our 40s, we help each other.
Here we are all unique. And we are all the same.
Today the smile on my face when I shakily raised my 49-year-old legs up into the air in headstand—for the first time in my life—was just as radiant as the smile, half a lifetime ago, after my first kiss. But this feeling, I know, is for keeps.
Alexa Maxwell is a writer, teacher, traveler and student of yoga. She is a huge fan of elephant journal and is honored to be part of the herd. Watch for more ele posts as she attempts to maintain a steady yoga practice while solo traveling through South America! (YIKES!) You can read more at her blog here (www.catnipkiss.wordpress.com) , follow her on Twitter @catnipkiss, or wait for her upcoming travel memoir which is a work in progress.
Editor: Elysha Anderson / Brianna Bemel