For those of you who practice yoga Mysore style and for those of you who do not and have absolutely no idea what that even means, this is an ‘ode to my teacher’ and the metaphoric change that occurred in my life since I met him.
My teacher. The day I met you was terrifying. I had already done a little Ashtanga but never before Mysore style. My daughter was only just a year old and there were certainly no bandhas in sight, only a once-flat-ish-stomach (that was honestly only ever really flat if I’d skipped a meal in those days) within which a recently occupied womb was recovering slowly but surely, and below that the pathway where the babe had journeyed to enter the world was still quivering in physical and emotional shock.
But, there I was, on a black mat when you arrived beside me and quickly did away with the ‘cheat sheet’ that I was using to remember the sequence. I went into self-protection mode and hastily recounted that “I-just-had-a baby-so-couldn’t-come-every-day-but-how-many-days-a-week-do-you-think-it-would-be-ideal-to-come-along-so-that-I-could-really-get-the-best-out-of-it-and-and-and…?” (Remind self to take a breath here!)
I will never forget what followed. This calm, strong figure before me with the upturned handlebar moustache and impossible mop of curly hair simply stated,
“practice every day for the rest of your life.”
This was the point at which being terrified turned to abject horror (there’s that fear again!) mixed with a little pig-headed, type-A determination. There was something about this room, about this teacher, that had me hooked. But I couldn’t imagine doing this every…single…day…
Nevertheless something made me keep coming back. The yogis who inhabited the room became a spectacle from which I could not remove my eyes (drishti…what?!) and I kept on coming, twice or three times a week, most of the time. All the while our teacher allowed newbie-me on my black mat, allowed every pretzel-like bendy lithe beauty, every overheated sweating mess, every runner with legs of reinforced steel and no stretch, every new mum with not a bandha in sight, allowed us all our own space to be on our own path to figure this thing out.
On my return from periodic global adventures to visit other teachers, you afforded me the luxury of returning with metaphorically open arms to try out what felt right at the time; to slow down, to speed up, to almost stop sometimes, to try something new within the system, to go back to the old, to just be, to be me. Your respect for each individual on each individual mat is awesome, but it is coupled with an unbendable (excuse the intentional pun) rule of law that one must do one’s practice, one must show up in every respect, be on a path and respect the knowledge that is passed down to us through this incredible Ashtanga lineage.
But your understanding that we all have our own journey and your allowance for us to choose our own path within the system is a blessing for which I will be eternally grateful. You allowed me to coax this weak, tight, stiff, overworked, overstressed, over stimulated, uncared for body and mind back onto the mat each day in whatever way I needed to. You did so in such a way that I always felt safe, protected, motivated and at peace. (Well, as at peace as my ever-chattering mind allowed).
And I suppose I should mention that along the way this samskara-stiff body, mind & spirit got stronger, opened and began to heal.
You, my teacher, you allowed the room to be a womb. That womb gave me space to grow, encouraged so many of us to grow, while we were challenged, nurtured, heated, cooled, metamorphosed and rested. Your teachings and the teachings allowed us to grow safely, as completely as we were able to, and to know where our limits were on that day (if we chose to listen!)
6 long years you have been next to us, gently guiding, adjusting as we need it, supporting us all the while, come rain or shine each and every morning. I know I speak for many of us on our black mats when I say that I am eternally grateful for all that you have enabled me to become, for all that you have allowed me to learn about myself and for all that you have gifted to me through your knowledge, your openness and patience, your humour, the peace that you engendered and for your constant ‘being there’ in the womb-room.
Little did I know that the terrifying, wise creature that first addressed me would become a beloved friend whose initial words would one day make so much sense, permeating every part of my life, and would stay with me so deeply so many years later.
Little did I know that today, your last day of teaching in that womb, would touch me so deeply with gratitude, with love and with honest-to-goodness thanks for all that you have taught and all that I have learned.
Little did I know that what you taught me would appear in my own teachings every single day in my coaching practice. I only hope that I am able to regift what you gifted to me – the space to find my own path and the safety of a metaphorical womb within which to do it.
To my teacher, with utmost gratitude, a heartfelt “Namaste”