By the time the weekend comes, I am tired. An early and long morning of teaching on Fridays just tends to wear me out, and combined with a late Friday night, I’m still tired on Saturday. My practice on Saturday was to jump into a heated level one vinyasa class at Sculpt Fusion, expecting to flow effortlessly from one posture to another and find easy breath and movement. My experience was much different, and I can only guess that it’s because my body is more worn out than I thought. Instead of gliding effortlessly through practice, I found the heated studio stifling, the slow pace difficult, and the air too thick to breathe comfortably. And I was hungry, I think, because I kept blacking out every time I stood upright.
Today, I was still feeling unusually sleepy, and fell asleep on the couch at 3pm. When I woke up, I immediately rolled out my mat and stepped on, knowing that if I ate dinner first, practice would not happen. My husband joined me for a gentle 45 minutes of vinyasa, mostly working into the hips, hamstrings, and quads. Well done.
Gates’ message for the weekend really hit home with me. Another way to look at brahmacarya, he said, is as “suppleness of spirit.” He says as we step onto the mat each day, we experience rigidity in many ways. He says, “We become rigidly attached to practicing at certain times, certain temperatures, in certain styles, certain sequences, with certain teachers, certain clothes, certain mats, certain places in the room, certain towels, certain results . . . The list is endless.” He’s right, of course. While many of these attachments are harmless, others block us from really opening our hearts to the beauty of change and difference. I’ve noticed in my own practice how attached I am to certain postures, wanting them in each and every class and not feeling satisfied when my instructor leaves them out.
Where else am I rigid? Well, I really only like to practice in the mornings, when I have the most energy. Just last week I did an evening yoga class for one of the first times in months. It was fabulous! Instead of heading home at 5pm, eating dinner and watching TV or reading all night, I was able to meditate and move my body on my mat, and relax much more easily afterwards. I vow to try that again. I also notice that I like to use my own mat, my own Yogi-toes towel, and practice vinyasa or astanga. But, to balance that, I’ll try harder to practice outside on the earth and try different styles of yoga when given the opportunity.
Rigidity is difficult to let go of, and easier to see when the rigidity is not your own. Teaching yoga has really opened my eyes to the common places where rigidity lies. Many students will only practice in a certain spot in the room, while others will ask other students to move so they can see themselves in the mirror while they practice. Other students are so attached to certain instructors that when a substitute arrives instead, they walk back out the door. I like what Gates says about this last fact: “I know that if I don’t like a teacher, it’s because she reflects an aspect of myself that I have not made peace with.”
The bottom line is that letting go of rigidity means not becoming complacent in life and always questioning the motives behind our actions. When we open up to suppleness of spirit, not only do we find balance and the surprising joy that comes with spontaneity, we also open our hearts to compassion for ourselves and others. If we can’t see the mirror one day in our practice, perhaps we learn that day to find compassion for our body rather than judgement. If our yoga instructor is sick and a stranger is in her place, we can offer compassion for the position she is in and open our hearts to learning something new. When we find brahmacarya, we let go of the attachments we have and, since the root of all attachment is fear, we act out of and open ourselves up to love.