It’s funny how the things we need to learn find their way to us, even when we don’t know we need them. Teaching yoga has been such a blessing to me, partly because of the lives I’ve been blessed to touch. Mostly because it radically changed the way I see the world and my own place in it.
A lot has changed over the years since I began teaching, and I’ve grown through some incredible challenges. I’ve also gained some insight that I never would have had without the gift of teaching yoga to an incredibly diverse group of human beings. For that I will be eternally grateful.
I’ve watched students show up to their mats when they were weighted down with the exhaustion of chronic stress. I’ve watched students fold their bodies (sometimes gently, sometimes not) into silly shapes and beautiful shapes and a thousand shapes in between. I’ve watched students find courage on their mats, rediscover faith on their mat, let go of insecurity about their folds and their fat and their oh-so-human body. I’ve watched and held students as they sobbed, as they laughed for no reason, as they cried out in joy at discovering some hidden strength.
I’ve noticed that the ability to sit in lotus does not make anyone more or less calm. The ability to hold handstand does not guarantee they aren’t an asshole. The fact that they take 3 minutes longer than everyone else to get up off the floor does not mean they are less intelligent or capable of living a full life.
I’ve listened as childhood traumas were shared, as secret fears and hopeful dreams were said out loud for the first time. I’ve worried about students and yes, been jealous of some as well. I’ve watched a sea of bodies in all shapes and sizes move with their own breath at their own pace, lost in their own little world for just a few seconds in time. I’ve been blessed by the sight of so many spirits resting peacefully during savasana, finally taking a break from picking at their clothes or apologizing for being human.
All of these experiences have led to a few resounding truths:
Your human body has NOTHING to do with who you are as a human spirit
I’ve watched over a class of resting students after savasana and had the sudden clear thought that I do not see a single one of them for their bodies. Sure, I see how their skin folds in twists, how women have to tug at their legging tops after a vinyasa, how different bodies can get into different poses… but I don’t see those things as who they are. I see Molly for her bright spirit and inquisitive mind. I see Katie for her genuine compassion and eternal optimism. I see who they are, not what shape they are.
And then another thought clicked into place… if I see them for who they are, maybe they see me as who I am? Maybe they don’t notice the stomach that isn’t perfectly flat or the hair that is inexplicably flat. Maybe they do notice those things, but they don’t equate those things with being me, as a human spirit.
That is an incredibly freeing realization. Your body may have a lot to say about how you navigate life, it may get in the way of certain things and help tremendously with others. But it is not who you are at the level of Self. That is a beautiful thing.
Your past has NOTHING to do with who you are as a human spirit
In Vedic theology, there is the beautiful image of the Self as a limitless being using the human body as a vehicle for experiencing creation. This life is simply a tapestry of experiences meant to bring you back to who you really are, which is a part of the Divine. When I first started teaching, that thought seemed like not much more than a pretty idea. After talking to so many people and hearing their stories, I realize that your past, your story does not define who you are. Your human experience is not you, it is simply your experience.
No matter what you’ve been through, no matter what “bad” actions you feel you’ve taken, no matter how many ways your mind comes up with to torture you… you are a part of pure Divine consciousness. Your future is limitless possibility. Your past does not define your future. (It affects it, sure, but it does not define it.) Those pretty sayings look good pasted over images of flowers, but they are also REAL.
You are Divine. You can choose every day to do one small thing to honor that and trust that it will all add up. The freaking miracle of that truth is enough to still my mind on most days.
The human spirit is EVERYTHING
Our capacity to love despite having been hurt, to hope despite having fallen down, to believe despite having been lied to is outstanding. Our ability to pull together in times of need is more beautiful than a thousand setting suns. Our connection to one another is pure and eternal.
Everything in this life seems to pull us away from that truth, but it is always there pulsating like a shared heartbeat. The human spirit is the joy, the miracle, the answer we are all seeking. And it’s right there, inside of each of us, waiting to be found.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om