I'm learning from the other side at yoga.
I am relatively new to a nighttime practice, not so close to home.
And for this reason, most all of the yogis, save one or two, were strangers when I first arrived.
But the energy in the room seems to tie us together and, at the end of each practice, I often feel a sort of kinship with my classmates, even the ones I still don’t know.
In this class, half the room faces the other half. And now I’ve made some buddies on the other side.
In particular, my dristi, or focal point, seems to land on a young lady three rows ahead, in the first row that faces mine.
She is upside down in handstand for every vinyasa, and I’m hoping to advance my practice simply by osmosis.
One day, on my way out, I couldn’t help but exclaim to this young yogi about her practice. A few days later, on my way in, she returned the compliment.
We started to chat and moved on to more important topics, like her handstands. I want those vinyasa handstands, away from the wall, and I asked her how it is that she’s not afraid to go upside down, right in the middle of the room.
I’ll help you, she offered. I’ll teach you how to fall.
She spotted me, then, in handstand, mid room with no wall, and encouraged me to turn my hips and step out to stand up. It was almost like rounding-off in gymnastics or like the second half of a cartwheel.
We did this a few times, and she sent me off to practice at home. Not once but twice since then, she has offered to repeat the spot.
Here was someone offering help without my asking, offering only kindness and encouragement and even praise.
Little did she know how much this heartened me.
Outside of yoga, I find myself mostly in mentoring roles. I am a helper, and often an advisor, as a colleague, as a mom, as a sibling, as a friend.
But yoga puts me on the other side, placing me in an unfamiliar role. And it feels kind of strange to be over there.
At yoga, I am the student. I look to others, students and teachers alike, for inspiration and how-to’s.
I am surprised at how much there is to learn from others, and often from those younger than me. In the studio, though, it seems that age is of no matter.
Most important is the fact that this young yogi is teaching me about fearlessness and courage. She is teaching me how to be brave enough to fall, even when I’m scared.
I am learning a life lesson from someone almost half my age!
It’s this unexpected camaraderie that I’m often surprised to find at yoga.
More than once, I’ve looked around and wondered, What if we all never met or, for that matter, what if I never met yoga?
What, then, if I saw these yogis passing by on the street, walking around, all grown up and dressed up and doing the day?
Would it even occur to me that at night we could all be having fun in a room doing headstands and handstands, upside down like children of all ages?
Apparently, how old we are doesn’t appear to matter. Yoga seems to be an equalizer.
This might not be evident when walking by each other on the street, but once we are on the mat, it’s really so easy to see.
The other day, it was time to practice our handstands.
I planned to chicken out and face the wall at the back of my mat for support. I was still afraid to invert at the front of my mat, mid room.
Before I turned around, my young mentor on the other side caught my eye and gave me a nod.
I followed her silent instruction and changed my plan. From her faith, I gathered my courage and gave it a go facing front.
I planted my hands below my shoulders and pulled in my core. I lifted one leg and then slowly lifted the other.
And to my surprise, I hung there, upside down, mid room!
For that day, at least, I was not afraid to fall.