November 25, 2013

The View From the Front Row. ~ Carrie Bloomston

My yoga studio has a big mirror.

It runs the 30 feet of the studio, except for the last four feet, along the right wall. That is my spot. Everyone knows it is my spot. My friends save it for me. They call it the “Carrie Corner.”

Yogic wisdom would probably tell me to move around the room—“change the grip”, so to speak—to get comfortable with the discomfort of change. I sometimes feel guilty about breaking such a fundamental yogic teaching and seeking refuge, continuity and comfort in my same safe spot.

But I do it anyway. I hide.

I don’t hide because I feel inadequate, I hide because it is quiet and I am alone.

My life is busy and full, but in yoga, I am just part of the many-limbed animal of the group, I am not expected to be awesome or even singular. I am just there to practice. I am not there to instruct, show-off, guide, or be alpha or mom to my two incredible kids. I am not there to be a business woman, be an artist, or even to be organized. I am just there to breathe.

When I was 30 and I started my practice, I explored many forms of yoga. One of them was Bikram, which was also practiced in front of a huge mirror. My teachers would always spout that confounding phrase, “eyes on your own eyes,” urging us not to compete, to not compare and not judge. Really? But there was that humongous mirror right there showing me what everyone else was doing! How could I not look? I was so curious and so impressed by everyone else. Instead, I started to look at my own alignment, eyes, body.

Slowly, I became comfortable with that looking.

At first, it felt rather confrontational; I felt naked. How often do we stare at ourselves for over an hour? I could see my shaking legs, my broad shoulders, my masculine arms. I could see my strength. I could see my patience. I could see me slowly coming into myself, I could see myself unfolding. I could see me becoming comfortable being seen by—me. I couldn’t hide from myself. I was vulnerable. That was the yoga for me. That was the growing up.

Now I am 41. I stopped yoga for about five years because it felt so selfish to take so much me-time. I can tell you that the woman I am now who enters the studio isn’t looking around the room. In fact, I feel almost alone in there, even surrounded by 40 people. I am not competing or comparing, because my eyes are not on anyone else’s eyes, nor are they on my own. I am in that corner, with no mirror—-and for much of those 75 minutes, my eyes are closed.

My teacher tells us we don’t need to see the pose because we can feel it. His simple teaching is so profound—“closed-eyes yoga”—that it is my yoga now. I feel it inside. I seek grace, fluidity, beauty, femininity and strength.

I’m after the elegant expression of the poses without too much straining and forcing. Sthira Sukham Asanam is my guide. I seek that lovely moment between force and ease, muscle and surrender, sky and ground, rigor and release, effort and effortlessness, stillness and dance.

 I know I am enough, so I don’t need to seek visual confirmation that I am.

Today, I opened the door and all the spots were taken. My corner was taken. The spot right behind the corner was also taken. The only space available was front row, center. S**t.

For the first time and after about 150 practices in the last year, I had to place my mat front row, center. No matter how comfortable I am with myself, front row center isn’t my style. I am not so great at yoga that I think the whole room needs to have me guiding them through the poses. Front-row-center people are generally pretty competent and pretty confident. Front-row-center people seem to be comfortable with everyone watching them.

Today, I was forced out of hiding.

I was forced to shine—forced to be okay in front of everyone, doing my artsy thing, with my eyes closed—and because of that mirror, I had no choice but to see what everyone else was doing.

I can tell you, we all looked pretty amazing. I saw myself and learned that I’m all-in. I dive into the poses, full of love and openness and I swim. I breathe. I move. I try. I leave it all on the mat. I am beautiful and graceful, precisely because I am there, full of love, trying, surrendering and being me. We all are.

Sometimes, the view from the front row is a welcome change from the edge. Sometimes the mirror lets us see our own beauty, strength and grace. Sometimes, it feels just right to look right into our own eyes and to know that we are good enough. Go get a front row center spot tomorrow and see for yourself.

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 Ed: Bronwyn Petry

{Photo Credit: Elephant Digital Archives}

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