Wednesday, July 17, 2013

'Satya' Water Bottle Down and Listen Up

 So, I teach yoga.  And as inevitably happens, I've noticed certain generalities that I frequently see in my practice spaces: the kind of thing people of the same profession will get together and commiserate and share a chuckle over, like the 'hovering art director' of graphic designer infamy, for example.  Of course, because of the sensitive nature of the work we yoga teachers do, we don't do all that much sharing and chuckling, and when we do it's only the vaguest of terms.  Along those lines, today, I'm going to level with a certain broad swath of the yoga class-taking public:

Your water bottle isn't fooling anyone.

Oh yes, you know who you are: some of you are rocking the lululemon and others are in whatever knock off sweats you could find that day.  Some of you are in seated meditation fifteen minutes before class starts, and some of you are sprinting in five minutes after, but you've all got that water bottle in hand when you come in, and when you unroll your mat, that water bottle gets plunked right down, usually at the upper right corner of the mat, and it doesn't stay there.

I start class, and usually we make it through sun salutations and maybe one Warrior sequence before it happens: I'm telling you to breathe, and you're going for another physical necessity: a quick chug from that water bottle.

Now, let me be clear: I do not know what your state of hydration is, and it is not my place to tell you whether or not you should be taking a drink in the middle of class, but...

if you come to class hydrated, and you drink your water bottle after class, you will be quite safe and healthy.  Those extra gulps are utterly unecessary to your well being.  True fact.

So, why are you taking those drinks?

Maybe your mouth feels dry.  I rarely teach without a glass of water nearby, because after twenty minutes of straight talk, you've got to moisten your mouth in order to keep going.  However, you guys are saying very little.

Or maybe, just maybe, you don't want to hold down dog for five breaths, or move through that chaturanga, or try crow pose again.  Maybe, just maybe, you're using the water bottle as a shield between you, and the shit that's coming up when you work hard.

I know all about this first hand: I've been doing zumba lately, and between every song, everybody wanders away like wounded warriors for their towels and their water bottles, and a couple times a class, I'm among them.  We want that break. We want to feel like we NEED that break, and that's why we're taking it. Not because we WANT it, or worse, because our bodies are asking for it. I don't think it's that big a deal to grab water in between songs in a zumba class, though.  Walking to your water bottle and back  keeps you moving after all, and that's what you're there for: to get your body moving and your heart rate up.

Now, in my yoga classes, the point is to deal with your shit.  That's just the most honest, blunt wa of putting it.  Here's a nicer way:

We're here to do yoga, and by yoga I don't mean earn your hot yoga butt, or tone up the flab on your arms, or even find a release from stress after work, although yes, those are things that will likely happen. The point is to dig deeper than that: to find the real you on the inside, and confront this person that you probably don't know nearly as well as you think you do, and to make peace with the tension that comes up between your ego and this state of outrageous honesty.  Yes:

On the mat, we are cultivating, among other things, outrageous honesty, and dealing with the frequently uncomfortable, sometimes very painful consequences of that honesty, because when we do that, THEN we find a real peace that lasts way longer than even the best Savasana.

So get brave, and get honest: Notice when you want to do something, hit the pause button, and ask yourself why.

So that's all I'm asking you to do.  Come to class, bring your water bottle, and when that first urge to take a sip hits...ask yourself why.

And be honest with your answer.

Do you genuinely need some hydration?  You'd better finish off the whole bottle, and then take a long break in a seated position to let your body recalibrate.

Does your mouth just feel dry and uncomfortable?  Could you possible just sit with that for a while, as we keep moving?  What would happen if you had to live with that feeling for another half an hour? Does the state of your oral interior affect who you really are deep down, past your ego?  Hmmm...

Do you really just want to disengage from class and stop for a minute?  Then do that, and don't tell yourself that's not whats going on, because that's not honest.  Take child's pose, and breathe, and don't disengage from yourself.

Maybe your muscles aren't tired, but you're feeling resistance to something I'm saying in class (or, you know, something I'm saying right now...).  That's ok.  A.) you don't have to agree with everything I say, and B.) often, we just need time to sit with less than comfortable truths before we're ready to acknowledge how they apply to us. Keep breathing. Give yourself that time.

This is your golden opportunity to practice outrageous honesty, known in Sanskrit as, 'Satya': truth-telling, the second of the yamas, or ethical precepts in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.  Like most things worth doing, this isn't always easy, and it doesn't always feel good.

But that's ok.  We're in this together.

Live Omily,

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