by Janna Leyde
Ever get a taste of your own medicine?
Christina asked us to pick our teacher on the mat this morning, to set an intention to learn something from someone (or something) that was bothering us, annoying us, making things difficult for us. I sat obediently in virasana and tried my darnedest to pick my poison. Nothing. Nothing was bubbling to the surface. Not one external thing came up.
I sat. I waited. I thought about how my body was a little cranky and my head was still stuffy from a lingering cold. That didn’t work—despite my sniffles, I was feeling good.
It had been a long week, a week sparsely populated with yoga. (I will always tell myself that sun (or moon) salutations count as doing yoga if you can squeeze a few into your day. Same goes for ten minutes of pigeon, or 20 silent minutes with a mantra.) My week had been an unplanned vacation from my book/yoga/writing life: an impromptu visit from my parents, late dinners, sports in bars, finding coasters and necklace charms at Cat Bird, sipping Mast Brothers spicy hot chocolate, going to the movies with my roommate, reading, and sleeping in. I had filled days with these things, letting them trump popping into a studio for a solid practice.
If I’m being honest, my last legit yogi effort was holding sirsasana for five minutes with a pug licking my face—and that was nine days ago. NINE DAYS AGO.
“A smattering of moon salutes and a sirsasana NINE DAYS AGO!” My inner dialogue was now yelling at me. “Maybe laziness should be your teacher this morning?”
I had to find something to learn from, right? Doubt? Fear? Impatience? No, not even my regulars. I was just really happy as a clam to be on my mat, with myself, in a 9:15 with Christina.
When I was told to cat my back more than I was catting my back in flying cat, I had to let it go or I would lose this whole class to fixating on trying to find something to learn from.
Forty-five minutes into class, we were told to close our eyes in tadasana. Damn, I was feeling good. Yoga class, oh how I’d missed you. I closed my eyes. I poured the weight into my left foot. I lifted to the ball of the right. I teetered. I toppled. I hadn’t even made it to tree yet—that was where we were going, of course. I tried again (eyes still closed). I fell again. Tried again. Fell again.
I started laughing. This shit was funny. I tell my students to close their eyes and then come into tree all the time. I know how good it is for your brain, how it re-stimulates and re-wires neurons that we don’t always use. I want my students to experience this yoga goodness.
“I tell my dad to do it this way,” I mouthed to Christina.
She told us something about how this improves neural functioning, the numero uno reason I challenge my father to do it this way. I kept laughing and falling all at the same time.
“I thought of you,” she said to me, smiling. “ And teaching your dad.”
“This is hilarious.” Teeter. Topple. “I can’t even do it myself.”
Then she told the class about laughing and falling and keeping your eyes closed the whole time—and how whatever is happening is all okay, all a part of yoga.
I found the left side to be more hilarious than the right. I mean, I couldn’t do it. I toppled the second I tried to lift my foot to my ankle. I might have even toppled out of tadasana if I hadn’t been trying to do something else with myself.
And then there it was. I found my teacher: Me.
Just me this morning, on my mat with my practice. Me learning to laugh at myself. Me learning to listen to what I tell my students, my father. I’d had weeks of deep internal stuff—teaching, writing, discovering, healing, research. Last week was my much-needed light ’n fluffy external break—shopping, movies, hot chocolate, parents, football, steak frites. But this week yoga has brought the balance (it’s a new moon in Libra, after all) and shown me that I need a little more of that “me time” back.
Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on publishing her first novel, He Never Liked Cake, a coming of age memoir that tells the story of growing up with her father’s traumatic brain injury. Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain offers her perspective on the practice through the lens of the complex human brain.