As a new yoga teacher, I was more eager than most to get back into the yoga studio this fall.
I missed teaching; I missed my students; I missed the sense of community yoga brings.
Yet when it came time to commit to my primary studio, I initially said no.
My decision wasn’t about COVID-19. I knew the studio took precautions and talked with local medical professionals. Instead, my decision was about a mask. Or rather, the mask that would hypothetically be on my face if I wanted to lead a breath-centered yoga asana practice in person. I knew how to wear a mask to the grocery store, even while hiking. But teaching yoga? It seemed impossible.
Fortunately, I changed my mind. Because over the last six weeks and several in-person classes, I learned that teaching with a mask on is a lot easier than I feared. In fact, I often forget I have a mask on in the first place! Someway, somehow the reality of wearing a mask fades into the background of my felt experience as soon as my students and I begin moving, breathing, and focusing.
How could that be? My guess is the mindful nature of yoga asana. Yoga tends to expand and embody our awareness, so we see and feel a larger reality than the one our active minds cling to off the mat. During these crazy times, it seems that this mindfulness is enough to transcend the existence of a 4×7 inch piece of cloth on my face!
Masks are even less present in my memory. When I recall a specific sequence or pose, days after a specific class, I see whole bodies, not just faces. If I try to recall particular students, I see their full face, not just their masks.
All of this encourages me. I’m particularly relieved to know that someday when masks are no longer necessary, they won’t mask my memories either. Until then, teaching yoga with a mask has reminded me that things are not always what they seem. Sometimes they’re better.