When I teach yoga, often the pearls of wisdom that seem to tumble so effortlessly out of my mouth are actually the exact messages I need to hear. It’s as if my own unconscious, subconscious or higher mind is utilizing the space in which I’m not thinking about myself to reveal to me the things I can’t find when I am. There is something about the sacred space of the yoga studio, the openness of the students and my own intention to be a clear channel, that allows for the transmission of what appear to be mystical truths. Many yoga teachers experience this same phenomenon, and many yoga students wonder with incredulity if the teacher is reading their mind. Yoga is magic.
Yin Yoga feels especially conducive to inquiry into the mysterious, tender and often veiled aspects of reality. In this practice, we employ the gestures of surrender and receptivity to contact one’s softer, more vulnerable nature. Sinking into postures for around 5 minutes provides ample opportunity to experience what’s been hidden, rejected, neglected and denied. Sometimes physically painful or uncomfortable, sometimes mentally anguishing, the practice offers no means of escape. As Robert Frost wrote in Servant of Servants, “ … the best way out is always through … I can see no way out but through.” We marinate in the poses, savoring the flavors of our attitudes, thoughts and feelings. We begin to see that our habitual patterns of perceiving and responding are themselves roots of suffering. Through unconditional acceptance of ourselves just as we are we liberate what’s been stuck, and leave class feeling lighter, brighter and more like who we know ourselves to be.
I usually arrive at the studio with an idea of a theme for the class, often with a poem or two to illustrate or expand upon that theme. Like many yoga teachers, the theme is often centered around a yogic principle I’m working with, or seeking to find a yogic perspective for a challenge I am facing (although I don’t usually share the details or specifics of my own personal struggles). It may be that the yoga teacher’s signal magnetizes students who will benefit most from what s/he is offering that day. It is also true that we are all human, and so struggle with many of the same circumstances. As Manorama has often quoted her teacher, Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, “If you know one mind, you know them all … “
As students come to sit and close their eyes, I often find myself inspired to say things I hadn’t planned on. These ideas form themselves into words that then slide out of my mouth as I watch and wait and hope that, eventually, they will make sense. If these were paintings, sometimes they are like the Impressionists, sometimes the Realists … other times, the Surrealists. Like faint echoes of an inner knowing, they invite me to see from a higher view as they point me toward treasures hidden within my own strife.