I did it. I bought yoga.
I mean, I bought a membership to a local studio. In the past few years of regular practice, this is the first time I’ve purchased a series of yoga classes (besides the ubiquitous intro deals of 10 for $10). Maybe you are like me and have wavered on forking over your cash for what is basically rolling around on the floor. Which, of course, you can do from the privacy of your home with only Toto (or Molly in my case) to watch you wriggle.
Why did I buy?
A friend recently recounted a delicious yoga class she took while visiting a friend in Philly. They both ended the class on their mats, weeping in release. I remembered those kinds of classes. The kinds that stretch you. The kinds that break you. And the kinds that not-always-elegantly-crack open your closed encrusted heart revealing You. With a capital Y.
Instructors as Guides
I didn’t realize it until she told me the story, but my heart, my soul center, has been feeling a little encrusted lately. Not for any particular reason other than the common resistance that is natural to life. But it needs a little (or maybe a lot) of cracking open. And sometimes, having a guide is especially helpful in navigating the deeper or darker recesses of our hearts. I can take myself through a pose sequence just fine (as a trained yoga instructor I know how to go from tadasana to uttanasana without injury). But moving to my edge? Exploring the boundary between known and unknown? An instructor can help me focus, can speak louder than my gremlin voice who never fails to whisper that we would much rather be taking a nap thank you very much.
Classmates as Motivators
A class environment is a powerful motivator. Though I don’t advocate yoga as performance or competition, being among classmates who are reaching, yearning, daring to become fuller more expressed humans (or just look like they are!) makes me want to too. Give me a classmate and I’ll go further than I would if I were acting alone. It’s just how I’m made.
Space as Sacred
When I practice at home it’s usually some combination of the following: rug, yoga mat, dust bunnies. While I’m hanging out in downdog I’m not just focusing on my breath, I’m also trying not to focus on how long it’s been since the last time I vacuumed.
Taking part in a deeply spiritual (for me) practice means it is nice (at least) and necessary (at most) to partake of said practice in an equally meaningful place. Yoga studios are renown for their soothing ambiance. Honestly, contemplative practice is so much easier when the hardwood floors are swept and mopped by someone else.
Membership as Community
My grandmother once explained to me that one of the many, many reasons she belongs to the Jewish Temple in town was because it was important to her to be counted among the greater community. To make her claim as a Jew among non-Jews. To be a member of a congregation was to stand with her people and together work for what mattered to them most. It didn’t matter as much which congregation in town they attended, she said, it as much as that they belonged to one, and made themselves known.
I thought about that in terms of Yoga. How do I make my claim as a yogi? How do I stand for what this practice which is so important to me? For now, I make my voice heard with my dollar vote. When I pay for yoga classes in my community, I vote for teachers who make their living as Guides and Mentors. When I pay for classes I vote for contemplative education everywhere. The more the community supports such activities, the more there will be. I want to belong to a community who believes in and supports what I think is valuable and important.
I can practice at home and will certainly continue to do so. But for all these reasons above I have made my choice to join a local establishment. I haven’t even talked yet about the benefit of supporting a local business! Needless to say, I’ve made the choice to dive deeper into my own experience, to unite with others of like mind, to support my community. To belong.