Yoga is a very personal thing. We all bring different stuff into the class with us: Emotions, moods, physical abilities, aches and pains, attitudes, energies.
As a yoga teacher, it is my responsibility to create a safe and secure place for my students to enjoy their practice, regardless of any of these things.
When teaching a class, I find it fascinating how different personalities are expressed without even a single word being spoken:
There are the confident ones, who place their mats right in the front and who think nothing about running out for a wee half way through the class.
The timid ones, as opposites, usually go right in the back or on the edges with their mats, and try to avoid eye contact.
You can see the ones who had a bad day by the scowls like thunder and the irritated puffs through the nostrils.
Then there are the competitive ones. They constantly watch the other students, visibly comparing themselves and striving to get the leg higher or the twist deeper. Many men fall in this category: The sweat sometimes drips on the mat from sheer exertion!
Those with aches or sprains fidget and shuffle about on the mats, seeking to find comfort as the body presents its challenges.
The stressed out ones arrive with busy heads and darting eyes, lying on the mat with fists clenched and shoulders hunched. They find it impossible to close their eyes and simply breathe, holding their breath with eyes furtively darting at the ceiling and everywhere else.
The insecure ones start giggling or find themselves compelled to talk or comment during the postures, finding the quiet unsettling.
Sometimes, people are working through life events and losses like bereavement or marital and relationship issues. They are usually quieter, more introspective. It’s not unusual sometimes for tears to erupt, especially after the back bend sequence, or during final Savasana (Relaxation). The release of emotion sometimes brings a release of tears.
The tired or overworked ones simply fall asleep, and the gentle snoring during in Savasana can disturb the relaxation.
The beauty of yoga in comparison to all other physical activities, is that all of this humanity is dealt with non-judgementally, objectively and compassionately. Whatever a student brings onto the mat, is dealt with right there. And regardless of what it is, it is ok.
It’s ok to cry, or to laugh, or even for the infrequent little embarrassing fart to slip out (Usually followed by a suppressed hiccup and wild blushing from the emitter.) Nobody will say anything, comment or judge. Unless, of course, the action is totally beyond the realms of good manners or disrespectful to others. Everything else is handled with dignity and kindness.
What you bring into a yoga class, is yours to deal with on your mat. Eventually, with practice, the ego releases and the student begins to allow the calm and mindful contemplation through movement that is yoga, to smooth out the mind-stuff and deal with the issues.
We are all on our own journey. For me as a teacher, it is about creating a safe and welcoming space for students to practice their yoga and to help them deal with whatever the practice brings.
So what happens on the mat, stays on the mat. Tomorrow, every person will feel differently and think other things. Today, we deal with whatever presents itself. This is the practice of yoga. Relish the sheer humanity of it!