Many of my friends and fellow students have been returning from their winter travels over the past few weeks. They have been sharing wonderful stories and pictures. I didn’t leave the country or even the city, but this winter I, too, embarked on an adventure. In fact, it was the biggest, most challenging adventure of my life. I have been teaching six days a week at The Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia since David left for India on December 23rd. Even though I didn’t go traveling and the scope of my life seemed to shrink to a few key locations, (the shala, work and home) I really have been on the most incredible journey.
There were times that I was more tired than I have ever been, but I have also been more satisfied. Teaching morning Mysore, doing my practice and then heading off to work has been incredibly challenging. There were days over the past two-and-a-half months that I cried from exhaustion – physical and mental. I’ve had a few temper tantrums. There were even several morning that I decided, somewhere in the cold, pre-dawn hours while waiting for the first El train, that I was not cut out for this and that I would never, ever again teach once this winter was over.
I was terrified at the start of this journey that I wasn’t ready and that I wouldn’t be enough. I was scared that my practice would suffer. Honestly, I have less fire in my asana practice recently. I have had to be kinder and gentler with myself on the busier days at the shala, as the number of students I am working with has made my body, particularly my back, more fatigued; less willing to bend. Still, this winter has shown me how to really love my practice. How to own my practice. How to practice for myself. I have learned so much about myself from the students I work with, and that wisdom has been seeping into the way I approach my asana and everything else I do. I’ve had to be more fearless and trust myself more readily. I’ve also had to learn how to work smart, be completely accountable to myself and how to work more internally on the mat. If anything, this winter has made me love my practice more. It has made me crave time with my teacher. It has made me appreciate the gift of being the student of someone so filled with Bhakti. It has made me really appreciate how much David gives of himself to his students.
This morning, as I called for invocation on the last Sunday before David comes back, it hit me. I have been a Mysore teacher. How did I get so lucky? Looking out at the room, I kind of lost my breath for a second as I realized that in a few short months I have had the opportunity to introduce over a dozen students to this practice that has change my life. I was there to witness first drop backs, first time binding in Marichiasana D, first headstands. And I was there when people were scared and frustrated, when they were working through injury, impatience and self-doubt. I can’t even begin to describe how much of an honor this has been for me. How excited I got with each and every break-through I was allowed to witness and share in. It’s been one of the best, most indescribable experiences of my life.
David arrives home in a few short days. On March 15th he comes back to AYS. I am excited and a bit nervous, but mostly I just miss my teacher. This can be a lonely job, I now understand, and I am really grateful to David that he does it. I am really looking forward to practicing with everyone again, and I am gearing up for the work that lies ahead with my own practice.
But before my adventure comes to its final end, I want to express my thanks. Thank you to the new students who allowed me to be the first person to introduce them to this practice. It’s been such an honor. Thank you to the older students, those who have been practicing for years, many of whom are much further out on the path than I am. Your support and your willingness to work with me and to help me learn has been invaluable. Thank you to my friends at AYS for listening to, supporting and loving me. Thank you to the cleaning staff for making sure that everything was taken care of and that I didn’t have to worry about anything. Thank you to the Lehigh Valley crew for letting me join you in your open practice and still traveling down to Philly this winter. Thank you to my family and friends outside of the school for understanding my scarcity this winter. Thank you to Sarah for your love and support when I needed reassurance that I could make it through. Thank you to my husband for your excellent care when I was tired. Finally, thank you to David for trusting me with your students and your school. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and thank you for believing I could do this. You gave me the opportunity and the push I needed to trust myself and it has changed the way I see myself forever. Thank you for being my teacher.
Now, let’s PRACTICE!!!