“If you’re going through hell, keep going…”

This (Thursday) morning, I took class with Baron Baptiste, one of the first yoga teachers who made a real impression on me, and my first trainer as a yoga teacher (and former boss, actually).  Taking class with Baron at this point for me is kind of a Rorsach test- he teaches a pretty similar flow (the “Baptiste Power Flow”, described well and in detail in his first book), in a room that is about 95 degrees but feels much hotter, with at least 80 people, at least 40 of whom laugh at all his jokes, which could generously be described as not ready for Groundlings.  (I was never one of those people)  So you kind of know what you’re getting- a tremendous sweat, a lot of backbends, and banter that is encouraging and vaguely spiritual.  Just to be clear, I mean none of this as a hack on Baron, who I appreciate tremendously, only as a descriptor.

The interesting thing to me today was to watch my reaction to this class- some things I used to love about taking with Baron I had no use for (the almost circus-like excitement that precedes the class), and others I enjoyed more.  There are things in Baron’s cuing that I’ve realized completely don’t work in my body, and that I won’t teach, and there were other cues that were genuine “a-ha” moments, or necessary reminders. (E-mail if you want details- it feels to geeky to start picking stuff apart in a blog post)  If I’m able to be conscious, I can learn a lot by just watching how I react to this familiar experience.

But the single biggest lesson I always take from Baron’s classes is the classic quote attributed to Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  If you let them, Baron’s classes can feel hellish- hot, crowded, holding poses for a seemingly endless amount of time, watching sweat pool in places you didn’t know it could.   But once you’ve paid for the class, and put your mat down in a sweaty sea of humanity, unless your body is really collapsing, is it worth it to cop out and leave?  This is why he teaches the way he does.  We all know what it feels like to fail, why not feel some semblance of success? (And more than once, success was defined for me by 45 minutes of child’s pose) The other side of the journey does feel successful, always.  The after never happens if you don’t deal with the during.

This has been a strange week, no doubt for many people- I feel like something’s been in the air.  I’ve been watching friends and neighbors struggling through moves, job changes, break-ups, tremendous self-doubt, and the like.  I’m struggling with illness in my family, wild ups and downs in my personal life, changes invited and uninvited, welcome and unwelcome, and certainly unexpected.  Class today was a reminder that sometimes you just have to keep going through hell- succumbing to fear or anger just isn’t going to get it done.

P.S. I should mention, as long as I’m posting about teachers, that David Vendetti, probably the single most important yoga teacher in my life, was named Best of Boston by Boston Magazine this week, again.  While David and I have our moments (honestly, usually because he hasn’t hired me yet), I can say with confidence that the honor is tremendously deserved, and as decorated as David is at this point, he’s still underrated. David and his husband Todd Skoglund have created a beautiful community in South Boston, one that is on its best days a statement of their aspirations first, and a business second.  Heartiest congratulations to them.



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