by Rosa Chacon Lauper
When I teach, I often like to talk about the experiences of my early practice because, even today, I am profoundly grateful at how much I have learned and how it has impacted my life.
Before I started practicing, my main tools were to control and to push things to happen as I wanted and needed them too. This philosophy crumbled in my first class when I wasn’t able to push through the class and walked out before Camel. I never quit anything. I was not known to be a quitter. I judged quitters. I lived my life by pushing my square way of being into every circle that existed. I’m so grateful that the body keeps the score and that my body knew I needed what Bikram Yoga was about to teach me.
Stillness is inner peace and, along your yoga journey, the goal is to be able to practice in complete stillness. True peacefulness cannot be disturbed. Not even by how hot you are, by what you think you know about the yoga, by the person next to you, and even by the person who is once like I was and goes in and out of the room.
I was so shocked when I heard these words from the mouth of Bikram himself. During my teacher training in the spring of 2011, I practiced alongside 459 other yogis for 9 weeks. I had never practiced mat to mat with someone and I had not yet been in a situation where I was continually with 459 other people for 9 weeks straight.
Believe it or not, I witnessed many confrontations between teachers over who moved whose mat, or who was right in terms yoga posture philosophy, etc. The heat and the environment in class brings up so much in our lives that we have the opportunity to process through. What happens on your mat is what’s happening in your life. I love this quote by Louise Hay: “When I find harmony and balance in my mind, I find it in my life.” Practicing stillness during class, especially when we’re uncomfortable, prepares us to be still outside of class, in similar situations.
I took class yesterday, and before I put my mat on the floor, I knew I was tired. My mind and my body were so tired. I worked to let go of all of that and be in a place to receive what I needed from class. Slowly, around Standing Bow, I started feeling like I had not had enough hydration that day, my mind was starting to race, and I soon felt my breathing accelerate. I realized that, in order to receive what I needed from class and be still, I needed to be gentle with myself. So, after the first set of Triangle, I gave myself permission to sit down on my mat and focus on being still and breathing. Then again, after the first set of Camel, I also laid on my mat and focused on stillness and breathing. I love the magic of this prescription. Sure enough, after class, my energy had returned, my senses were invigorated, and I felt so alive and eager to get home, full of energy to be present for my family that night.
May you all have joy in your yoga journey as you discover the gift of practicing in stillness.