April 2nd, 2018
“Oh. My. God.”
“I’m dying. Am I dying? I seriously think I’m dying!”
“What in the hell was that?”
Those were the thoughts drifting through my mind in the beginning, middle, and end, respectively, of my first Baptiste power vinyasa class. At that point, I was new to yoga and had only ever practiced Iyengar Yoga.
PHASE 1 :
My Iyengar teacher was amazing: she trained under B.K.S. Iyengar himself, she had practiced for decades, and she was English, so her soft accent was ideal for guiding me into a calm savasana. In an hour-long class, we would do no more than ten poses, often less. We had a playmat of props surrounding each of us: two blocks, a strap, two blankets, a wall, and a chair–and we used every single prop.
PHASE 2 :
THE BAPTISTE STRUGGLE
Two years later came my first Baptiste class. It was fast, my heart rate rose, I was sweating like crazy (and consequently sliding all over my mat), and the teacher did not have a calming English accent! After class she asked me how I felt. “It was really hard, and I’m so confused right now,” I whined. I explained what I had done before, she was instantly supportive and she explained that–news flash to me–there are different kinds of yoga. Then she said the phrase I still come back to : “All yoga is good yoga.” It was that sentence, by the woman who became my mentor, that changed my entire yoga path.
PHASE 3 :
DEATH BY BIKRAM
Despite the meltdown in my first Baptiste class, I got hooked! After learning that Baptiste is the fusion of Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Bikram yogas, I tried the remaining two. Ashtanga came and went easily, but Bikram was another story. The entire way through my first Bikram class (and if I’m being honest, my first dozen classes) I had a constant “I can’t breathe!” sensation. After class I reminded myself that I was alive and repeatedly vowed, “I’m never doing that crap again!”, but then my mentor’s words were there : “All yoga is good yoga.” So I kept going back; I kept learning. To my young yogi surprise, Bikram yoga taught me how to breathe better.
PHASE 4 :
THE FRENCH AND THEIR WEIRD FOOT ISSUES
On a trip to France I visited several studios in the south. One of them left a mark, mainly on my ego. I was constantly reprimanded by the teacher, starting with being laughed at for thinking she would reply to my email. (Why reply to an email when you could be eating a baguette et fromage? Fair enough.) The second reprimand was for doing what I thought was standard. “Mais qu’est-ce que vous faites? Remettez vos chaussettes!” Put my socks back on? I neglected to remember that the French have unique views on feet, and the only place where bare feet are socially acceptable is the beach where, bless the French, everything is bare. I was scolded for not doing Lion’s Breath correctly, for my alignment, and for not going to the right class. I left, frustrated and defeated, but then I remembered : “All yoga is good yoga.” As a high school teacher, I reminded myself that all cultural lessons are good too. My frustration subsided, and I indulged in a well-earned glass of Provençale rosé.
PHASE 5 :
KUNDALINI AND MY POOR, POOR ARMS
There was a Kundalini studio in my neighborhood, so I decided to try this turban-tastic class. Mid-way through, I thought my arms were going to fall right off. Plop! Right there on the floor. Blood everywhere. Embarrassment at my faulty anatomy. I figured all Kundalini couldn’t be like that, so I went to a class elsewhere, but both the physical pain and the mental feelings were the same. Dang! Again, it came back: “All yoga is good yoga.” Kundalini became the practice that challenged me more than any other style to still my mind.
THE LESSON :
ALL YOGA IS GOOD YOGA
It has taken me a long time to let go of the mental and physical challenges and frustrations of trying new styles of yoga. Actually, I’m sure I haven’t let go of all of it yet. But at least I have the mantra that every yogi needs : “All yoga is good yoga.” I have come back to that lesson time and time again in my yoga journey for those basic lessons of patience and acceptance, of learning and moving forward. So as you go out and explore the wide, wide world of yoga, remember this mantra and then smile, find the lesson, and keep practicing.
Written by Meraki instructor Erin Hoffman Austin
Join Erin for Vinyasa 1 Flow at 5.45pm on Thursdays