“I’ve got news for rejoicing/now a new sun is rising/I count my blessings.” – D. Marley
Not too long ago, on my commute to the South Shore to teach my saxophone kiddos, I bumped into my friend Roberto Lim. Roberto is an accomplished yoga teacher and senior assistant to Shiva Rea, in addition to being just a great guy. We were chatting about life and yoga and the various dramas on the yoga scene, when he said something that really hit me. He quoted a very senior teacher, I’m forgetting now who, who said something like “Yup, ten years in, that’s when the practice really starts.”
Then, just to drive the point home, a few weeks later at AcroYoga teacher training, AY co-founder Jason Nemer said that in some of the traditions he’s studied in, the standard is that after ten years of practice, then you can teach, and after ten years of teaching you can teach teachers.
I started practicing yoga in 1995, but 2013 is my tenth year of very serious yoga practice. In 2003, in my last semesters of grad school, I found a little Monday night pranayama/meditation class at Back Bay Yoga (then a hole in the wall two floors up from the infamous Little Stevie’s Pizza on Boylston) and started taking classes at studios around the city, eventually falling in at Baptiste Power Yoga, then at Back Bay Yoga, then at South Boston Yoga and elsewhere. My first teachers there were David Vendetti and Baron Baptiste, respectively, both of whom later both trained and employed me.
With that in mind, I’ll be posting occasionally over the next little while about what my practice and teaching are like, ten years in, and what I’ve seen, and see, in the larger “yoga world”.
Let me start with the overwhelmingly positive- me. I can’t imagine what I’d be like without a consistent yoga practice. I can say with near certainty that yoga has saved me a hell of a lot of money on medications- I live a (mostly) pain-free life in my body, and I haven’t needed the (prescribed) psychotropic drugs that have come in some ways to define my generation, despite some genetic predisposition to things like SAD (light disorder). Things that would send me into a tailspin ten years ago I now have tools to work through. I’m generally a lot less “in my head” than I was in my 20s, and in my body, able to be more present, and I know yoga is a big, maybe THE reason. I am grateful to all of the teachers who have helped me move in this direction, and I feel amazingly lucky to get to share what I’ve learned with all kinds of people. (too many to name, and hopefully I’ll name drop all of them in this series)
There’s an NPR interview with Seane Corn, one of my early yoga heroes, talking about what makes yoga special on a very basic physiological level, in very clear, understandable language. (studies are starting to back this up) She says that most exercise is good for the body and the mind-body connection, but yoga, due to its emphasis of connecting breath and movement (and body and mind and spirit, and yin and yang, and…) and on creating down regulation as a part of practice (every style of yoga, almost without fail, ends in savasana, a completely passive resting post.) To put that in your day, I say with certainly, changes your day, and since today is all you ultimately have, it changes your life in little, but obvious, increments.
It’s funny, I was lucky enough to hang out recently with some old college friends (members of the amazing band Kneebody), and they kept saying “so I hear you’re a yoga master now!” Which is flattering (and speaks to the power of Facebook photos), but it’s most decidedly NOT the case. Ten years into serious practice, I can certainly do a lot of things in and with my body that I didn’t think imagine, and have a much better sense of what yoga is and what it can do to the body, the mind, and perhaps to bigger things too. I have moments, sometimes, that I can only describe as transcendent. But I still say dumb, thoughtless things, eat and drink in unwise ways, and generally don’t behave in a way that lines up with what I want to be as a yogi, never mind a “master”. The odds of me deserving that title in this lifetime are pretty slim, and I’m okay with that- don’t think I want that crown. (more on that later)
I was in a teacher training (I honestly don’t remember which one at this point), and early on one of the facilitators asked us “why yoga”? And a bunch of answers kicked around, until someone said “we do yoga because it makes our lives better.” And I feel like living proof of that.