Stormy Weather and the Benefits of Practice

Posted by on Jul 24, 2014

roughseas

 

Lately I have found myself facing a number of personal challenges. Not unusual. Most of the time, or all of the time, we’ve all got STUFF. But sometimes it comes in waves, large and frightening. And then the ocean in which you’ve been blithely swimming suddenly appears threatening and murky. Shore can look very far away.

I’ve often wondered how psychotherapists cope with times like this in their own lives. Or school teachers. Or really anyone who has to be coherent and responsible in front of others, which I suppose is most of us.

Perhaps it is no accident that a portion of my work life takes place at a desk in an archive, with only intermittent demands that I engage with others or have to articulate any useful information out loud. If I am feeling somewhat insane on those days, most likely no one can really tell.

Other days however, I find myself in a room full of people looking at me, and waiting to hear how they can find inner peace and, more than likely, outer beauty through yoga and meditation. It is quite a humbling experience to be swimming in rough waters on my teaching days.

Yet these moments are why I practice. I recently read an interview with Senior Iyengar teacher, Eric Small. He said, “ When you go to class, that is not practice. You are learning something that you will do in your practice.” For me this reinforced the grateful realization that Yoga classes have helped me, not only toward the ability to work on a complex pose outside the studio, but as a means to swim with some semblance of grace through the rest of my life.

For example, on days when personal upheaval leaves me exhausted, I can feel tight, ugly and cranky. I can be lost in thought and less than present. In one moment I am amazed that a student still does not seem to know her left hand from her right, and in the next, I have forgotten which foot we are on in the sequence that somehow has come pouring out of my mouth.

Then I remember that my teachers have given me techniques for steadying my breath, for finding the ground beneath my feet, for softening in the face of difficulties rather than hardening. Being patient and compassionate with a student or with myself on a difficult day is an advanced practice and one that I can continue to work on for the rest of my life.

This work we do together at the yoga studio is just the beginning, but after so many years I have truly begun to see how deeply it serves me.

May it be of benefit.

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