This Is What Great Yoga Feels Like

There’s more to yoga than tree poses and downward dogs

Illustration by Cynthia Marinakos.

W e enter by the side gate, being careful not to park across from each other on the narrow residential road.

There are 2 rooms. One for yoga. The other for gathering after yoga.

We slip off our shoes and open the glass sliding doors to the gathering room to drop off our coats, keys, and phones. We pick up our props — any combination of blanket, weight ball, strap, and bolster.

Then we quickly tiptoe barefoot into the yoga room — minimizing the time our feet spends on the cold path.

I walk in, my mind often filled with thoughts of the day’s deadlines. Crankiness from the struggle to get my daughter ready for school. And exhaustion from going to bed too late.

These feelings and thoughts remain as I sit cross-legged on the mat.

They battle on in my mind as we begin a short meditation.

They continue even as we begin our first stretch.

I breathe in the smell of citrus wafting around the room from the diffuser. My mind gets caught up in the power of gentle music. And I gradually let these thoughts of the past and future drift along like clouds in the sky.

They drop in throughout the class. But they don’t take center stage for too long.

“Meet yourself every day to be with someone extraordinary”.

The theme of the class always seems to fit. Giving me exactly what I need today.

While doing Warrior pose on our olive green mats, I peer out the big floor to ceiling windows and take in the grass and sky. My whole being radiates in the sunshine when it makes an appearance.

And when the weather turns grey and cold, I nestle into the poses, soaking in the warmth of the ceiling heaters. Comforted by the monotony of the rain on the roof.

The teachers in this studio are caring and respectful. They offer options so we can decide what positions work for our bodies — and our minds — in the moment.

We are gently encouraged to tune into our bodies. To do what’s right for us rather than imitate what everyone else is doing.

There’s never any judgment. No ego-driven poses. No competition.

“Smile. Yoga isn’t so serious.”

Because the only person that matters while doing yoga is ourselves (of course we try not to kick the person next to us in banana pose or floor twists — but if we do, we laugh and adjust).

Many classes are a beautiful blend of soft and hard, fast and slow, strong and gentle.

As the class continues, the teacher expertly weaves together breathwork, meditation, poses, and philosophy.

“I love hearing the sound of [yoga] blocks falling.”

To wind down at the end of the class, we lie in corpse pose, also known as ‘shavasana’, our bodies flat on the mat. Our arms next to our bodies, our palms up or down.

For extra comfort, I slide a bolster under my legs at the crease of my knees. And cover myself with a blanket.

I love it when the teacher gives us heavenly neck and shoulder massages, giving us a sniff of a relaxing essential oil like lavender.

Sometimes during class, we massage ourselves — and it feels foreign, to massage my feet, my arms, my legs. It’s slightly uncomfortable in my mind, but working in the fragrant coconut oil feels wonderful on my skin, on my muscles.

It reminds me of how little self-care I give myself.

As the room and my body reverberate with Ommmm, the teacher thanks us. For the energy we created, for the learning we gave.

I am often surprised at this. At this humility.

It reminds me that no matter what our role, we are no better or wiser than anyone else. We are always evolving. Learning is infinite. And we grow when we humbly open ourselves to receive from the people around us.

The teachers are grateful. And it’s so unexpected that it reminds me to be grateful in unexpected times.

Unlike so many classes I’ve visited in the past 18 years, these classes aren’t just about pushing ourselves and positioning ourselves into the strongest, hardest positions and seeing who can hold them the longest.

“We are all broken. That is how the light gets in.”

These classes make us feel whole. Remind me that I am whole — and I need to nurture more than my body to be truly healthy.

When we spill out of the room, stepping barefoot outside the room into the room next door, I see the same silly, joyful smiles on the faces of my fellow yogis.

Our eyes glisten with the same gratitude and contentment.

We are grateful that we made the choice get off our butts, get into our cars and drive here. Despite the weather, despite the struggles, despite the arguments in our head.

We have been rewarded for our efforts: we have reconnected with ourselves. Remembering what it means to feel alive and here in the now.

And as we sit around in a circle, guessing the ingredients in the latest delicious tea Jaymala has grounded, we laugh about how tough it was to balance on one foot through many poses. Jaymala is the studio owner and one of the teachers.

As we pass around the juicy, sweet dates, we hear about how Phil’s family are meeting in the US for his baby sister’s graduation — the first time they have met outside Rwanda for more than a decade. The family had to split up when his dad became a whistleblower.

As we crunch into Jaymala’s moreish 9-hour slow-roasted almonds, Tesh shares how she got called at 10pm on Sunday night to do surgery (she’s a vet).

Rosalind tells us of her role at work in a search-and-rescue organization. She explained their role in finding evidence at the scene of the most recent murder of a woman in Parkville, an inner-city suburb in Melbourne.

As we eat, sip, and chat, I fiddle with the drum. I attempt to play the only simple songs I can remember from 8 years of playing the piano as a child. This inspires me to play music again.

This is what great yoga feels like

A smorgasbord for our senses.

An appreciation of the present.

A powerful link to people. To community.

A challenge for our minds. Feeding our souls. Igniting our hearts.

A reminder to love ourselves. To be compassionate and respectful of our needs.

This is what great yoga feels like.

Can you feel it?

Aussie Copywriter. I love rock climbing high ceilings and hiking amongst ferns >> 10 Proven ways to attract more Medium readers: https://bit.ly/3g2e2xx

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