peace

This past weekend I took what turned out to be the most raucous yoga class I’ve ever experienced.

Five minutes before the scheduled start time, more men than women were lined up outside the yoga studio, stretching and looking very intense. This should have been my first clue that we were in for a serious workout – well, that and the fact that the class was termed Power Yoga. Then I spotted the instructor (who I’ll call Mike) and had a pretty good idea of what we were in for. He’s also a personal trainer at the gym and is quite talkative, energetic, and given to bursting into song. All good, just not your stereotypical serene yoga instructor. Mindfulness note: Notice, don’t judge. Let go of assumptions. Practice “beginner’s mind”.

After the previous class finished, about 25 people streamed into the classroom, jockeying for position on the floor and arranging various props (blocks, rugs, towels) around our mats, looking in some cases as if we were building mini fortresses. Mike cranked up some extremely loud rap music, donned a headset, and immediately began to compete in volume with the music, leading us in numerous sun salutes. I thought, “I’ve never been yelled at in a yoga class before!” Mindfulness note: And you’re mentally yelling back. Compassion might be a better choice.

Okay, okay. I was here for physical and mental well-being. Acceptance of the situation as it was sounded healthier than being frustrated. All the same, as we proceeded through numerous pushups, downward dogs, and warrior poses, I intermittently muttered to myself, “Oh, come on!”, but somehow I could also laugh a little at my reactions. Mindfulness note: We are not our thoughts. Let the thoughts float by like a cloud passing across the sky. 

Still, about 45 minutes into the class and still wanting some peace and quiet, I vowed that I would never again darken the door of one of Mike’s classes. At this point Mike passed by me as I was hanging upside down in a triangle pose, and he turned upside down as well, smiled, and waved at me. This caught me off-guard and I found myself smiling in return. Mindfulness note: Behold the power of a kind gesture. 

One hour down, 15 minutes to go. I noticed pools of water on the floor by the man next to me. He must have spilled his water bottle, I thought – then it became evident that the puddles were actually perspiration. Looking around, this seemed to be a common theme. Considering the class’s popularity and the presence of many apparent body builders, it occurred to me what a valuable service Mike was providing, attracting many people who might never attend a yoga class unless such a boisterous instructor and/or music were involved. Mindfulness note: Let go of expectations of what an experience “should” be. Surrender to what is. 

However, I then noticed (as we executed a challenging series of “abominable” abdominal exercises) that Mike was simultaneously checking his cell phone as he barked out instructions. I pointedly looked in his direction as I continued to work out, to indicate “I see you”, just in case he looked up, but he stayed focused on his phone. Then I thought, he might be expecting an important call or e-mail and still wanted to fulfill his commitment to teach the class. Mindfulness note: Who am I to judge? Give people the benefit of the doubt. 

Winding down, with ten minutes to go, we were instructed to assume the dreaded pigeon pose, involving one leg folded in half under one’s torso and the other leg stretched out behind. My mind protested, “Don’t you know this is terribly distorted and will wreck my knee? I cannot do this!”, only to realize, “Oh, I am — no pain”, due in no small part to the arduous, heat-producing, and muscle-lengthening moves we’d just completed. Mike had a method to his apparent madness. Mindfulness note: We don’t always have to “fix” our discomfort. Sometimes it’s part of the plan. Be grateful for the lesson.

With about five minutes left in the class, I found myself transitioning into mild tearfulness. Perhaps I’d surrendered to the class format, Mike’s style, and the present moment in general. Or perhaps I’m giving myself too much credit. At any rate, the thought “Do all things in love” had come to mind, and it seemed as if this would be the healthy way to approach this and all situations. After the class ended and I’d put away my blocks and rug, I made it a point to thank Mike for the class, at which he smiled, touched my shoulder, and said, “Glad you came”. Actually, I was glad, too, and maybe I’ll be back (perhaps with ear plugs).