I’ve come to rely on breakups as the catalyst for most major life changes.
All that sudden free time seems to lend itself to haphazard fits of inspiration and a desire for self-improvement. Not in the hopes of instilling regret in your ex-lover—of course not—but in the optimistic appraisal that we might be just slightly more attractive to the next better thing. She’s gonna be great.
And so am I.
So, maybe it’s more practical, then, as a high schooler with above average grades and developmental social skills, to put down the video games and pick up the guitar.
Maybe it’s wiser, as a college student whose exercise regimen consists mostly of the walk to and from class, not to gorge oneself on tortellini Alfredo and grilled cheese sandwiches. Maybe some push-ups would better serve one’s delicate physique.
And maybe—just maybe—it would behoove oneself, as a lovesick young professional sitting in the dark during a very helpful Halloween blizzard, to stop into one’s local yoga studio and see if—just maybe—I might be able to think about something else for an hour.
That last one was almost two years ago, and it’s probably my favorite.
Few yogis would deny asana‘s ability to get us out of our heads, or even just out of the house, for a little while. There is a soothing quality to the rolling waves of a surya namaskara, a steeling in the soaring energy of virabhadrasana three, and solace in the respite of trikonasana. There is comfort in the simplicity and repetition (lookin’ your way, Ashtangis) of these postures.
And of course, there is gratitude in the breath—in the inhale and the exhale.
We return to the mat week after week, day after day, because we seek something only it can provide. We seek to get a little bit stronger, to feel a little bit lighter, to create a little more space, to enjoy—perhaps—a few moments of inner peace.
In any case, we seek to improve.
It is a widely accepted belief that the best way to learn something is to teach it. I’ve experienced this theory in my martial arts training and in my English composition classes. To be responsible for the education of another is to ensure that your facts are straight, that your technique is impeccable, that your prose is fluid and concise. In doing so, one can achieve incredible expertise.
And I love having expertise.
You could say, then, that my pursuit of a 200-Hour Embodyoga® certification was driven, at least in part, by selfish motives. This I freely admit. But as any teacher trainee knows, there is so much more to discover than advanced postures and a modest hourly wage.
I consider myself privileged to be part of such a diverse group of yoga practitioners. We have men and women, veterans and twenty-somethings, newlyweds and new parents, real estate agents and stage actors, PhD candidates and Pentagon officials. Yet, for as varied as our stories are, our bonds have become almost inexplicably strong. We, a group of strangers, have through this shared experience learned so much from one another. Each has contributed immeasurably to the training, and each will be better equipped to serve the world when we graduate in December.
But what we provide will not come only in our ability to lengthen your spine, strengthen your navel support or free your tail.
The unbreakable, golden thread that runs through my teacher training, a class wherein I’ve seen grown men cry, tempers flare, faces light up, and spirits lift, is that none of us needs any of the improvements we seek. We are already perfect.
This declaration is not mere bravado, but rather an acceptance of ourselves and each other—not in ignorance or passivity, but in self-actualization. We of course still seek to improve, but we detach ourselves from the process, from the need to fix our supposedly flawed selves and lives.
We will carry this lesson from graduation onward, and our work will be to deliver this wisdom to yogis and non-practitioners alike: each of us, with all of his and her aspirations, fears, desires, strengths, weaknesses, issues and baggage, is already all we’ll ever need to be.
And not even an ex-girlfriend can change that.
Andrew Marvin is an English professor, bass player, martial arts instructor, computer nerd and yoga teacher-in-training at Newington Yoga Center. You can follow him on Twitter, @andrewmarvin, or check out more of his writing at andrewmarvin.net.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta