I was talking to a friend recently about the courage it takes to come to a yoga class, whether you are a yoga-virgin or a regular practitioner. I can relate. I had to engage in some serious motivational self-talk to get myself to class in the first few years, and then I confess, most of the time thereafter. I’d feel totally not up to it, convinced that I would just collapse into child-pose and cry, embarrassing myself. Feeling too much pain and too tired. But, every single time, once I got there, into about 5-10 minutes or so, I would be so very glad I had come and I ended up doing most, if not all, of the class. Very grateful. Continuing and going deeper into my yoga practice was life-changing. And yes, I still cried during many savasanas (the deep relaxation at the end of class) in a state of deep release of my various tensions and depressed patterns at the time.
I went to my first yoga class in 1985. I was carrying around a lot of neck and upper shoulder tension from my posture and work as a self-employed seamstress. I had a thriving alteration business in my home and I wasn’t good at stopping to rest, even when in pain. I didn’t know how to stretch out tension. My posture was horrible. My self-confidence was very low. I was depressed. Somebody suggested Yoga. My first teacher, Neil, was actually the husband of who became my first Guru of around 8 years, Janie Strickland. She had just had a baby and he was subbing for her. I showed up in a sweat –suit and jogging shoes, knowing nothing. I felt better after class and kept attending. I always felt better after class, but it was always, always, an inner battle to get myself to come to class. To connect with my body, mind and emotions, generally all in pain; to show up in leggings in front of a mirror judging myself; to be present with the emotional release that often came at the end; and even most challenging: to do well in class and gain the approval of my teacher who I loved and respected. But I kept coming to class.
My teacher Janie had a policy of locking the door after class had started. One evening, after a horrible day and my so needing a yoga class, I was late. And locked out. I sat on the curb and cried my eyes out. To this day, Joyflow does not lock the door.
After about 5 or 6 years, Janie asked the class if anyone was willing to sub for her while she was out of town. Somehow, I think it was a God-thing, my shy hand rose and I found myself volunteered. I have to say I was probably charming but terrible; I’m sure I “led” the class but didn’t really teach. But I was hooked! This was something that, deep in my Soul, I knew was of supreme value and that I wanted a part of it, and perhaps I could become even good at it if I persisted! A year or two later, Janie asked several of us if we wanted to teach classes with her if she opened a studio. I began to study her every move and to teach under her guidance at her studio.
I may continue the story of my yoga journey in a later post, if you’re interested. But I write this to bring home the thoughts, self-doubt, reluctance, and then inspiration, that I experienced in my practice as first a yoga student, then as a yoga teacher. This is why Joyflow Yoga has become what it is: I value the experience of being with yourself and doing your yoga in whatever state, however pitiful, you are in right now. This is what yoga is for. It’s an amazing journey of self-redemption and healing. We embrace exploring and adapting the practice to your personal needs and how every movement feels in your own body.
Now I know, much yoga these days is more about a really great, but also aggressive, workout designed to de-toxify and strengthen your body. This is a yoga created with our Western competitive mindset and ends up being, in my opinion, more of the same energy that is stressful and not enough of yoga’s amazing ability to heal and transform. It also excludes many people who don’t feel like they are up to the athletics of this yoga. Have you ever compared yourself to the picture on the cover of Yoga Journal and felt that this was just not for you? Me too. But I know different.
So I ask you to challenge my experience as a teacher! As I proclaim that yoga is for everybody, come and test me. At Joyflow we have students using chairs because of an injury or the need to not be upside down. We have students wearing shoes during practice because of a foot injury. When I was training with my current teacher, Rod Stryker, I was in class with a beautiful lady who had a wonderful practice. And only one leg. She wore a prosthesis, and wore shoes in her practice. I know of several amazing teachers who teach out of a wheelchair. I myself have taught and done yoga on crutches. So I challenge you, even if you have to actually come in a wheelchair, there is yoga here for you. And equally, if you are physically fit and desire a deep physical workout, I can show you that yoga offers that too, but with mindfulness included. If you are afraid you might cry in class, we have tissues and also offer yoga-cry therapy if you want to go into that more. If you are afraid you might fart? Yes I actually said that; well since this is a healing-cleansing practice, we all are at risk and we have a protocol of ignoring that. If you are afraid you might laugh, we welcome that and I am actually certified in Laughter Yoga. So come try us out at Joyflow! If you have a special situation and want to start with a personal consultation, yes I do private classes.
Yoga is a beautiful tool to help you to experience your inner radiance and health, your connection to that which we often call God, to let go of the stresses in body, mind and spirit that keep you feeling disconnected to this experience of health and Joy. My purpose it to get your own Joy flowing, on and off your mat! Joyflow!