It was the beginning of the nineties and I was an angst ridden slip of a girl, barefoot and bored, waiting for my very first yoga teacher to emerge through the mission brown doors of the school library. I had already decided that yoga was for losers and I had better things to do than waste my precious time in this sweatbox-the whirring tease of overhead fans collided with the bombardment of bloody Enya. I’d have given my last dollar for a sick note.
Said teacher arrived rakish and hairy, draped in cheesecloth and radiating a intensely irritating aura of calm smuggness-the perfect fuel to my state of perpetual teenaged annoyance. He was like a bee sting to my eyeball. Abhorrent.
It feels like yesterday. Sometimes I see that girl, just for a moment as I enter a class of students, I am reminded of her cool irritation in the face of eventual salvation. The memory makes me smile. Today, as I sit down to write this letter to her, I wish she could stomp into my studio.
Dear Teenage Me (or beginner you),
Its me (you) here, just wanting to share some small things with you about your yoga adventure. You’re going to love it. I hate to be dramatic but one day it will save you from yourself. It’s going to turn all the 'merde' from your life into magic. Remember that the lotus flower is a symbol of pure beauty that basically grows in shit. That’s what it’s all about my friend- blooming into wonderful. Here’s your tips…..
*Yoga will make you a better person, friend, partner, mother, sibling and daughter. You’ll be happier, fitter and healthier. Your mind will be less active and you’ll sleep better. Everything in your life will improve- except your desserts. These will probably start to contain less sugar and cream and more raw cacao and chia seeds. Sorry.
*Give cheesecloth man a break!
*Being a beginner is terrifying. Walking into a yoga studio for the first time is awful. One day when you become a teacher or even a more experienced student, try really hard not to forget the awkwardness of feeling like you're in the spotlight without a script.
*Lose the big baggy T shirts- they will end up around your neck in down dog. No one cares what you're bum looks like in yoga pants. No one.
*Yoga will warm you to the world and show you the very best of yourself and other people. Be patient enough to allow the practice to infuse your body and mind with compassion. Swap the snotty teen thing (you may substitute cynicism or perfectionism) for kindness- I won’t tell your cool friends.
*Don’t concern yourself with touching your toes. I promise you they feel exactly the same if you bend your knees. I don’t think any great discoveries will be uncovered by reaching the pinnacle of any pose. The only attainment to strive for is to free the breath in that tightly bound chest of yours. The road to discovering your true nature begins with the breath.
*Take the time to choose a teacher that treats you with kindness and respect. If your teacher ever makes you feel judged-walk away. Do your own practice, for you.
*Use your own mat. All manner of creatures exist on the surface of yoga mats-better to have originated from your own person than the sweaty guy before you. (sorry Wet Man, no judgement!)
*Speaking of judgement- people can be judgemental and even unkind- this behaviour has no place in the studio. Try very hard to cultivate acceptance, for yourself and everyone that enters the class. You don’t know what they have been dealt, you don’t know how they think or feel. You are a friend first and a teacher/student second. If you can’t be their friend, they shouldn’t be your teacher/student.
*Take the teachings seriously but not the practice. Laugh lots and enjoy it. Farts happen in yoga, that should provide you with suitable giggle material.
*Look for that pesky ego behind your every thought, posture, promise, word and want. It’s a turf war that requires vigilance! Don’t let your guard down on that one!
*Always check yoga pants for split seams. One day you will race to class in those purple pants you love, only to discover a poorly placed ventilation system installed in the region of your butt. Rookie mistake made even more horrid by the arrival of a handsome new teacher.
*Be a student of yoga forever. Keep reading, learning, trying and sharing for the rest of your days. If you find something that makes you feel good, share it with others.
*You don’t have to change anything. All is as it should be now. You don’t have to be more flexible or lose weight or whatever. All of this and more might occur in time but in this culture of constant self improvement, be aware, you are perfect as you are. I promise.
Go forth on your great adventure in Yoga. If you learn a few things and it makes you happy-pass it on. That small gesture is how we change the world my friend.