The following article was published on oregonsportsnews.com on 20 June, 2013.
I have a confession to make. I recently went to my first yoga class in two months and it hurt. I felt good when I finished, but it hurt.
That’s right: Miss self-proclaimed globe-trotting yogini hasn’t attended yoga classes in months. I have my excuses. I’ve been traveling, moving, and figuring out life. All reasons to go to yoga class, but it’s hard to settle into a new studio while attempting to figure out life and a routine in America. I’ve settled for self-practice, but that hasn’t been cutting it.
I used to stand on one leg for fun while brushing my teeth; I sat in boat pose while watching TV with my friends. Now it hurts to bend into a forward fold. This is what sleeping on a futon for a month will do to one’s body. At least the Thirty-Day Squat Challenge has kept my backside in check.
Now after a few classes, my body is sore and I once again feel devoted to daily studio time. I also remember why I fell in love with yoga in Asia, and what I learned through my practice about compassion and love of oneself and others.
Halfway through my last “Candlelight Hot Flow” class, the teacher stopped everyone.
“I know none of you want to use the block. Your egos are getting in the way! You’re not getting a good workout without the block, guys!”
This teacher was epitomizing criticisms against Western yoga practices which I’d never had the misfortune of experiencing.
First of all lady, I thought, you’re ruining my chi.
Being reprimanded for my “ego” immediately took me out of practice and forced my gaze and mindset into my reflection in the mirror. What was I doing wrong?
The answer? Nothing. I was doing what my body felt it needed. Perhaps my weaker leg could be strengthened in my extended side angle; however, my ego did not take a back seat once this instructor told the thirty-odd students in the room that we were “doing it wrong.”
A few days later, I told a fellow practitioner about my Yoga Teacher Training program.
“Oh, Thailand? With anyone I would know?”
I didn’t understand at first.
“Well, no one else in my program was from here.”
Then it dawned on me.
No, I didn’t study with any famous Western yogis. Why would that matter? What I’m concerned with is finding a teacher who shows mutual respect for me, my body, my practice, and my spiritual well-being. I’m not concerned with a festival-hopping white girl in a Lululemon sports bra telling me that my physical asana is wrong. What I need is a teacher who will allow me to get out of my head-space and into my practice in the most beneficial way possible.
It’s easy to ignore pop culture influences when they’re not involved with your lifestyle. When I lived in Asia, yoga easily allowed me to go within; to separate not only from popular culture and mainstream media’s ideologies, but to go deeper within my own practice. Thus far, my new yoga community has shown me the profound impact that popular culture has within all aspects of life here.
I don’t mean to generalize every yoga practitioner or class in America nor do I think there’s a wrong way to practice. I believe in freedom of asana.
A very wise teacher once told me that how you perceive reality is how reality will bounce back. So go ahead, yogis of the world: you do you.