Beyond The Mat
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
This post is dedicated to our teachers Sherman Morris, Jeffrey Villanueva, Rony Stav, Emily Shain, and many others that have facilitated our practice, and all the others that have contributed to our journey at Yoga To The People and YogaWorks - all those amazing souls with all our gratitude!
“Every journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.”
What is often missed, is that those who journey, rarely reflect on the trepidation and fears they overcame in taking that first step. A little over four years ago, I began my own journey, stepping into a studio committed to surviving a 90-minute power yoga class. I felt invincible, confident my overpriced technical activewear would compensate for what I lacked in technical skill. Was I wrong.
I still highly romanticize that day’s experience, believing I exhibited some semblance of grace. Truth be told, I did not. If I felt any fleeting moment of pride, a quick glance over at my partner's “just what the hell is that” expression brought me back to the harsh reality. But what I lacked in form, was more than compensated for in perseverance and delusion.
Transitioning between poses, my gaze moved briskly between the pool of sweat collecting on my mat and the clock mounted on the wall. I was about 8-minutes deep into this practice and 5-rows too deep to make it to the exit. There was simply no turning back. As we moved in and out of positions, my heartbeat pounding louder than the mix of electrifying hip-hop music, I was certain this mat would be my final resting place - a fitting end to anyone my age thinking they look stylish in tight yoga shorts. But somehow I survived, and have done so through more than 1,000 classes since.
That first day I had two great revelations. First I realized that while Yoga traced its roots back to India - I could not find a single Indian in the whole damn class, much less the entire studio. I was becoming suspect - wondering what they knew that I still did not. Somewhere up above, a long-bearded Yogi was laughing his ass off watching this room of grown adult Westerners moving in and out of animal poses at command, and soiling his Dhoti.
My second revelation was slightly less sinister. After experiencing my first Savasana, which remains my most balanced pose, we joined together in a final deep breath and gesture of “Namaste”, filling the room with an incredibly off-key “ommm”. And with that, 40-odd folk swiftly rolled up their mats and disappeared into the night. The quiet exodus seemed odd, after all, we all just survived the life-defying practice of yoga. Was I alone in feeling this shared bond, thinking we should all hug it out or at least pound a high-five? The feeling gnawed at me.
Those feelings were further exasperated when I later discovered that Namaste meant “salutations to you”, an acknowledgment of each of our souls being bound within a collective. Who was the “you”? No one seemed to even acknowledge anyone else’s existence. None of this sat well with me. It may not have been my biggest frustration in life, but it left me determined to discover who these other folk were. The desire to forge tactile human connection and share emotional intimacy grows within me every day. Perhaps more so as I see our society moving in an opposite direction, clinging to fleeting moments of euphoria - searching for the next fix of digital dopamine. Today, my practice is driven as much by the physical and mental benefits, as by a desire to see those teachers and classmates I've come to call friends.
Yoga starts with the acknowledgment that we are all inter-connected, woven into a complex and diverse social fabric. No-where should this alignment be ever more prevalent than while moving through a practice together - everyday life. As each of us embark on our own journey, perhaps we can overcome the trepidation and fear to take a first step together. Our souls are bound by shared passions, experiences and fears, so let us extend a smile and utter to those sitting just beyond our mat, whether in a studio, a cafe, at work or out on the street, Namaste!