"Body not stiff, Mind stiff" is a great quote from Guruji, or Sri K Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. This so often exemplifies the case with Yogis today in our society. Everyone is working so hard on opening the body (or making it feel and look a certain way) but forgetting that the point of that is really to open and clear the mind. The Yoga Sutras tell us that "yogas citta vritti nirodha", or 'Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind'. What fluctuations? How about mood swings, desires, habits, expectations, boredom, uncertainty, fear to name a few. Things that are not strangers to most of us.
I see so many students going to the ends of the earth to come to every class, to perfect their chatturanga, to breathe more slowly and with more 'ocean sound' than anyone else around them or get their to chin to their shin NO MATTER WHAT. But then those same people who seem so focused on being ardent yoga practitioners, have a breakdown when one little detail about the room, the class, the music or the teacher changes. *Alert! Alert! Stiff mind!!!*
As Yogis, aren't we supposed to be receptive to change? To strive for and allow for change? Since the only constant in this life, after all, is change? I think so. I purposely, as a student and a teacher, do things differently every now and then. I realize the importance of getting out of my comfort zone, of trying something new, allowing for a new experience that I may or may not enjoy, but that I will certainly always learn from.
A few weeks back, I saw on the online studio schedule, that the usual teacher of my favourite weekly class was away and that there was a sub. Honest first instinct? I'm not going. Moment of pause... Ok let's look into this other teacher. I did a bit of stalking (hehe) to check her out, her training, background, website, photos, and she looked excellent. Inspiring even. But still I wasn't sure if her class would be anything like his. I decided I would go and be open to whatever she had to offer. The usual 30-40 students was more like 8-10 that day. I felt a little bit bad for her since the energy of the big full class would be missing, but worse for the people that didn't pause and reflect on their own closed minds and as a result were missing out on this class this week.
She was quite different. Different poses, different pace, different wording, way different music. He plays none while she played random not-yoga music! I really liked her, which wasn't the point, but in the end I did. The class was challenging and I heard some of the usual poses and transitions described in different ways which I always enjoy.
Her class also sparked in me the idea to try something new that I know is trendy in some studios right now- playing crazy playlists during class. I am a bit of a traditionalist, seeing as how my own practice is Ashtanga, no music, chanting, etc. But for a creative, high energy Vinyasa class, why not throw in a little Macy Gray, Radiohead and Lenny Kravitz?! So me and my iTunes went to work.
I approached my class at the beginning to say today we were going to have some FUN and do a little experiment, just to see how it felt. I told them to focus on the music for energy, not to sing along to the lyrics, and to use it as a chance to practice concentration. I found it odd to think and count and correct over the beats and words, but all in all it was a good class. The feedback was great, they loved it, so energizing, fun to mix it up, etc. OH! I was surprised. They asked for it again the next week. So, I obliged for another go, and made another playlist.
This time they liked it, and I started to get used to it, but at the bottom of the attendance sheet that day in big ol' letters was "PLS PLAY YOGA MUSIC". Hmm. Yoga music? What exactly is that? (In your opinion!?) Of course I felt a twinge of guilt having let someone down. But at the same time... REALLY? This student has a stiff mind. You desire a specific style of music do you? Well I don't have to tell you that we can't always have what we want. You are used to something particular, I suppose, and you are relying on what you expect to happen in order to have a happy or meaningful experience. I'm sorry that you may have not felt as "relaxed" as my past music has made you feel, but maybe today's practice wasn't about relaxing. Perhaps it was about being open to something new. Something LOUD! Something FUN! Something UNUSUAL! I always suggest going with the flow and permitting things to come and go and to be as they are without judgment. I invite this person, myself, and all of you, in instances where a class or any experience might not be going exactly how we had "hoped", to focus instead on the breath, on the raw sensations in the body, and on the intention that our minds will open along with our bodies, so that we may ultimately experience peace in any situation.
I will go back to leading a class without music this week and for a while thereafter. Not for that person's satisfaction, but because I believe it is good and it suits my style of teaching. But maybe in the future, maybe once in every few moons, I'll throw something else at you. Will you be open to it?