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July 27, 2012

Is Your Yoga Class Worth More Than A Happy Meal? ~ Tim Nolan

Image courtesy of Flickr/David Flam

How much should you pay for a yoga class?

Economic realities are, well…to put it mildly…real.

They press in. They squeeze us. Rent? School fees? How expensive are carrots this week? Does the car need a service? How much will that be? I know I feel like fitting in a yoga class or two—or three—but can I afford it?

This is true for most of us but this reality is the one our political leaders and media outlets focus on, relentlessly—it’s not the only reality we live in and in fact, it may not be the one that matters the most to you or your yoga teacher.

Before we go any further I’m going to do something weird.

Like saying grace before dinner (which is generally considered odd) I’m going to say a little prayer. Feel free to join in.

With gratitude and respect I acknowledge the gifts I have received that have enabled me to come to this yoga class today.

I acknowledge the building, the mats, the props and blankets, the lighting. I acknowledge the energy and care it has taken to provide them for me. I acknowledge the teacher and her years of training and practice; her efforts to be present here and now—and her intention to pass on the gifts of yoga to me.

I acknowledge my partner, kids, friends, homelife and all of the elements, from having clothes to wear and a bike to ride, to the yoga studio, that have enabled me to be here. Thank you.

With gratitude and respect (yes, the prayer continues) I acknowledge my own power to contribute to the success of this class. I am not just a receiver of gifts; I am a giver also and I have the power to make a difference.

To the person next to me who sees me open myself to camel pose even when I feel slightly embarrassed to push my heart into the air and my hips out for public pubic exploration. She can see that I am generous and calm, light-hearted and open and through that I can give her the gift of freedom from shame or guilt. We can open up together.

To the whole class; the teacher, the building, the day and the life, I can give the gift of my respect and gratitude and this makes me powerful. My compassionate powerful presence is part of my payment, part of what I give to be here today.

With gratitude and respect (now you’re getting it) I acknowledge the benefits I get from giving.

I acknowledge the feelings of pride I get when I see my neighbour relax and smile as we move out of revolved head-to-knee pose, coming back to centre like a flower opening up to the sun (at least I think we did that). My energy was part of her smile—and I feel grateful. I’m grateful for the sense of my own power that this gives me. I know that I can make a difference to others and this gives me a sense of calm and a feeling of confidence.

I acknowledge that another benefit I get from giving is that I learn how to give. I learn to master the kind of energy I share so that I make a positive difference rather than create tension and need.

Giving has taught me how to give in such a way that grows compassion; this is a shift from when I used to give in ways that were more needy, more often. For this shift and all the gifts that I receive, every time I give…thank you.

Finally, with gratitude and respect (this is the last one) I smile a little and whisper my secret mantra to myself: “Who cares?”

I say it three times, “Who cares?” and once more, “Who cares?” I feel my muscles let go as I relax into being present.

If I give, if I receive, who really cares? It doesn’t matter.

(I can hear my mind going: “Whaaaat! Doesn’t it?” Maybe your mind is like mine: I can hear the creaking door of letting go of attachment slowly opening.)

It does matter, I know but really—really— in the deep reality of our existence, there’s no point getting too caught up in what I give or what I get. If I am constantly on this treadmill of selfishly accounting for who gets what and how much each person has contributed or taken, then I am a slave to that reality. And it’s not everything. So, who cares? I give, I get—but I try to let go of counting and just be present in the moment.

Is this payment enough?

Probably not, in terms of the economic reality of paying for the heating or the lighting. In a deeper sense, this process is the payment that underpins all attendance in a yoga class. I mentioned earlier that this process is very much like saying grace before a meal. That metaphor has something to offer, I think.

To check in: do you remember ever saying grace before a meal? Is it a part of your history? Of your present? Or is it, for you, one of those vanishing ideas that come under the heading of “things weird people do?”

I have to admit before I go on that I don’t do it. For me it is weird: formal, formulaic and fake. But let’s explore whether there’s value in the idea of it or the practice of that idea.

Here’s a story, rich with old stereotypes:

Mum has cooked the dinner; the family has gathered—a chaotic rabble collected from doing homework, playing sports, making a mess in the garden and driving home from work—sat down at the table and, without blinking or breathing, begun to devour the food. Mum sits and waits, serves herself last and breathes out, deflated. She looks down at her plate and thinks about all her labour being consumed unnoticed, unpaid for.

Unpaid for?

Mum didn’t need money. She wasn’t sitting in the window at a drive-through asking us if we’d like fries with that. She was sitting down and sharing the meal with us.

Clearly, the economic reality is not the only economy or reality we live in. We are all part of the economies of love, spirit, emotion, compassion, gratitude and respect. We all know that Mum simply needed us to be aware of—and acknowledge— her efforts; to pay respect and to be grateful.

The point is, despite what culture, politics and mass-media tells us, our big, important and very real “economic reality” has not relieved us of our places in the other economies—of love, spirit, emotion, compassion, gratitude and respect—in fact, quite the opposite. In most cases, we are starving for these alternative forms of payment. And it’s the other economies that really make a yoga class live.

So whether you pay fifty dollars or $5, are a student or a teacher, I encourage you to sit on your yoga mat for a second and think about saying grace before you begin your practice.

With respect and gratitude, I acknowledge what I am receiving, what I am capable of giving and the benefits I receive from giving.

Then gently smile and say, “Who cares?”

 

Tim Nolan writes for and edits metta.magazine: a magazine of compassionate writing. (http://mettamag.blogspot.com.au) His partner Lily Mason teaches at Inhale Exhale Yoga. They’re currently paying for their stay at the Origins Centre in Western Australia, a retreat centre run on Buddhist principles of mindfulness and compassion, by not lazing about too much.

 

~

Editor: Bryonie Wise

Like I’m not “spiritual.” I just practice being a good person on Facebook.

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