Just me this morning, on my mat, with my practice. Me, learning to laugh at myself.
My teacher asked us to pick our teacher on the mat one morning, to set an intention to learn something from someone (or something) that was personally challenging us. I sat obediently in virasana and tried my darndest to pick my poison. Nothing. Nothing was bubbling to the surface. Not one external thing came up.
I sat. I waited. I thought about how my body was a little cranky and my head was still stuffy from a lingering cold. That didn’t work—despite my sniffles, I was feeling good.
It had been a long week, a week sparsely populated with yoga. I will always tell myself that sun (or moon) salutations count as doing yoga if I can squeeze a few into my day. The same goes for 10 minutes in pigeon, or 20 silent minutes with a mantra.
My week had been an unplanned vacation from my book, yoga and writing life: an impromptu visit from my parents, late dinners, sports bars, finding coasters and necklace charms at Cat Bird, sipping Mast Brothers spicy hot chocolate, going to the movies with my roommate, reading, and sleeping in. I had filled days with these things, letting them trump popping into a studio for a solid practice.
If I’m being honest, my last legit yogi effort was holding sirsasana for five minutes with a pug licking my face—and that was nine days ago. Nine days ago.
“A smattering of moon salutes and a sirsasana nine days ago!” My inner dialogue was now yelling at me. “Maybe laziness should be your teacher this morning?”
I had to find something to learn from, right? Doubt? Fear? Impatience? No, not even my regulars. I was just really happy as a clam to be on my mat, with myself, in a 9:15 class with one of my favorite teachers.
When I was told to ‘cat’ my back more than I was, ‘catting’ my back in ‘flying cat,’ I had to let it go or I would lose this whole class to fixating on trying to find something to learn from.
Forty-five minutes into class, we were told to close our eyes in tadasana, or mountain pose.
Damn, I was feeling good. Yoga class, oh how I’d missed you!
I closed my eyes. I poured the weight into my left foot. I lifted to the ball of the right. I teetered. I toppled. I hadn’t even made it to tree yet—that was where we were going, of course. I tried again (eyes still closed). I fell again. Tried again. Fell again.
I started laughing. This shit was funny. I tell my students to close their eyes and then come into tree all the time. I know how good it is for your brain, how it re-stimulates and re-wires neurons that we don’t always use. I want my students to experience this yoga goodness.
“I tell my dad to do it this way,” I mouthed to my teacher, who knows my practice and knows my practice of teaching my dad.
She told us something about how this improves neural functioning, the numero uno reason I challenge my father to do it this way. I kept laughing and falling all at the same time.
“I thought of you,” she said to me, smiling. “And how you teach your dad this.”
“This is hilarious.” Teeter. Topple. “I can’t even do it myself.”
Then she told the class about laughing and falling and keeping your eyes closed the whole time—and how whatever is happening is all okay, all a part of yoga. I found the left side to be more hilarious than the right. I mean, I couldn’t do it. I toppled the second I tried to lift my foot to my ankle. I might have even toppled out of tadasana if I hadn’t been trying to do something else with myself.
And then there it was. I found my teacher: me.
Just me this morning, on my mat, with my practice. Me learning to laugh at myself.
Me learning to listen to what I tell my students, my father. I’d had weeks of deep internal stuff—teaching, writing, discovering, healing, research. Last week was my much needed light ’n fluffy external break—shopping, movies, hot chocolate, parents, football, steak frites.
But this week yoga has brought the balance (it’s a new moon in Libra, after all) and shown me that I need a little more of that “me time” back.
Janna Leyde: I’m a yoga teacher in Brooklyn. I am currently working on publishing my first novel and also creating a place where yoga and brain injury professionally meet. Concerning the latter, I am certain that a yoga practice will not only help survivors of traumatic brain injury, but also their families. As I practice with my father (a brain injury survivor) my family and I are learning that yoga not only helps his mobility, but also his mind.
Editor: Evan Livesay
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