A Letter to Myself Before Joga

As I type, a soft rain falls outside the open door to the warehouse. A rumble of thunder emanates, occasionally, from the low-hanging gray clouds. A cool breeze greets my skin. Cross Fitters begin to trail into the gym neighboring the warehouse. Shortly, booming, beat-filled pop tunes and the rattle and shake of weights being dropped will sound over the fading thunder. The afternoon rain will stop, and the mosquitoes, with their inaudible hum, will begin to seek my scent, my blood and flesh. Little fuckers.

It’s been a peaceful day in South Florida. I went to my second class at CORPO yoga in Dadeland today, pedaling up the bike path about three miles. It was a strong vinyasa class, great teacher, accessible space and overall good class. I will say it is dramatically different from what I’d grown accustomed to (and trained on) in Chattanooga. It’s a studio, first of all, not a gym, and I find what my teacher Barbara told me to hold true. With the fairy godmother (and godfather) of Ashtanga Yoga, Kino MacGregor, here in Miami, asthanga seeps into a little bit of every practice.

Gone, for now, are the classes of funky flows, a total freestyle mixup working toward a peak posture. In my limited experience I’ve found very routine sequences. The vinyasa class does flow and change and have interesting sequences, but it’s grounded in a little bit of ashtanga.

Truthfully, it’s all new to me. Beyond my minimal exposure to ashtanga through training, I have limited experience with the primary series. But I can tell that a strong ashtanga practice gives way to strong vinyasa postures, and a solid foundation for asana and teaching asana. Still in my first week of Miami joga, it’s too early to predict where my practice will take me, what path, or paths, I’ll follow. I do know that I’m going to teach the same way I practice, without palms and fingers together, but instead fingers spread. A fellow yogi asked me to sub her class tonight, and I’m thrilled to have adapted my final teacher training sequence—a peak posture of wild thing.

Wild thing. Camatkarasana. Yoga Journal tells me that one interpretation is the “ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart.” Good for boosting the mood, treating fatigue or drepression. Opens the chest and shoulders, strengthens hips and thighs. Fosters compassion from the anahata chakra, the green heart center where we foster love for ourselves and love for others.

My challenge is not being so hard on myself and being easy and loving toward myself, no matter what path I’m on. With teacher training behind me, many new challenges are ahead. But I feel like I’ve been armed with inner wisdom, inner calm and peace to better ease the doubts, the defeats, the downs.

****
After writing that last night, Fito (Jeff) and I walked to joga at Five Sisters, a little store right around the corner with a backroom for classes. Melissa, who we’d helped move and who I’ve subbed for earlier, had asked if I could cover the class. I had giddily obliged, eager for an opportunity to teach after completing training and feeling “official.”

I didn’t feel the same highs and lows, the nervous anticipation before teaching and then the overflowing hum afterwards. I felt even. I felt like I could really share the energy I had cultivated with the students. I felt like myself.

Of course the after-class self analysis came, as Fito and I dissected what I’ve improved on (comfort and confidence in teaching, in the space, in the community of familiar students) and some areas I could still work on (using/not using joga jargon). I’m getting better at connecting the actions, the movements and the openings (or closings) to their emotional and metaphysical counterparts.

We always have, almost at our fingertips, love and compassion for ourselves and for others; it’s just harder or more difficult to cultivate. By coming to the practice of yoga, it’s there. We can find it. Our hearts are accessible, though breath and movement.

(What’s changed about me? My writing? My flow? My perception of joga and all its related, moving parts? Or just my surroundings?)

Jeff and I walked hand in hand down the nearly deserted street. At night, it feels like we’re some of the only people in the warehouse district. Under the street lights we walked toward our little market where we always get sushi. I bought a tall boy Heineken and we sat outside, talking, proposing, analyzing, brainstorming. It’s what we do, on a regular basis, and it’s homey to me.

The physical space I inhabit here in Miami barely resembles my surroundings in Chattanooga on the surface level. But below the surface, when you look at the essence of what I do on a daily basis, my life is about the same. Sure, I wake up on a school bus parked in a warehouse district every morning. I’m rarely exposed to air conditioning. But I still ride to yoga, albeit a different kind, space and style. I still write, I still converse in the same way. I still have disagreements and opinions and feelings. And I still have joy.

WHAT IS THE ESSENCE of what I’m doing here, though? What’s present in every uncomfortable moment, every victory, every introduction, smile, laugh or tear?

It’s me! My Self, my being, emotions and intentions. My intellect and wit, my smile and my soul. It is me learning to find comfort in the uncomfortable. It’s me suspending judgment, and being OK with feeling a bit out of my regular space. It’s me striving to live simply, on a bus, with someone I love dearly, to experience new and wonderful things, whether walking through the neighborhood for dinner, going to an open mic night in North Miami, spending a day at our favorite beach, or just sitting on the bus during the day, listening to the roof snap and crack as it expands under the beating sun.

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