After declaring myself to be unfit for adult interaction based on my eagerness to hang out with 16-year olds forever, a funny thing happened.
I found myself at a bar in Cape Cod, being introduced to a friend of friend, who agreed to a) make a total idiot of himself dancing with me to a country band and b) confessed that he “does a lot of yoga.” (I asked if he could put his legs behind his head. Kidding.) I asked if he did yoga up here, and he said, no, because he did a very specific kind of yoga in New York City, which, lo and behold, turned out to be the very specific kind of yoga I do in New York City. I explained that I’d been thinking about trying to get in touch with one of my teachers, because I suspected she knew where to find good yoga in Wellfleet. It turned that he was an old friend of the teacher. Somehow, we concluded we’d be better off trying to do some yoga on our own. We discovered at that =we were both early morning people (!!), so agreed to convene at 8 thirty on Sunday morning for living room yoga.
Probably, if you had told me two years ago that I’d be strapping a yoga mat to my back, getting on my bicycle and going to a stranger’s house in Wellfleet to do an independent yoga practice, I would have told you that biking was dangerous and boring and no way to transport a yoga mat. But, today, there I was, in someone’s living room, doing the Anusara invocation, and then taking turns leading sequences for an entire hour, finally ending with handstands in a backyard and meditation. (Actually the real ending was drinking green tea and me trying to sneak peaks at a book on Co-Dependency I found on the bookshelf, but no one is supposed to know about that.)
But actually, the entire experience sheds light on two important tenets of Anusara: finding the teacher within, and appreciating the many teachers around you. Basically, I was starting to, as yogis say, freak-the-f*ck out because I hadn’t been to a decent yoga class in 6 days. I knew that I could teach yoga for 5 minutes to high schoolers, but I had no faith or patience to explore my ability to teach myself.
Today, we got together to simply practice. And while our “class” was certainly different than one would have been with a teacher and we may not have pushed ourselves as yogis the way a teacher might have been able to, we did push ourselves conceptually. We learned how to build something entirely original, entirely makeshift, but entirely solid and valuable. I personally learned something that my teachers are always trying to tell me, which is that yoga can be kind of playful, rather than serious. Sometimes having fun can be as meaningful as concentration, and sometimes, having fun leads to a freedom that actually increases concentration.
The irony is that my desperation to get in touch with my teacher so she could tell me what to do and where to go, led me to someone who helped me to a place where I was to teach and guide myself. I was right that I needed her to find good yoga, but not in the way that I thought. More important than having a leader is thinking about what constitutes the role of leader.
In fact, it’s a lot like being unemployed. When you are unemployed, unless you have succesfully learned how to work the remote control (I have not), you wake up every morning and have to build yourself a day. There are no rules, no time frames, no target goals set by anyone else. And it is a lot harder to measure your own success when you’re not trying to meet someone else’s standards. But as in today’s yoga “class,” it turns out that while you may not be pushing as hard in a particular “pose,” you must push yourself very hard to create and follow through on every single sequence. Your pursuit of these sequences becomes your only way of creating some semblance of success.
What I learned by being my own yoga teacher was that you can draw as much benefit from carrying out your own selection of simple postures as you can doing fancy moves because someone with authority told you to. Put that in your life, and smoke it.