I teach yoga from 6-7am on Wednesday mornings. Yesterday, the day after Election Day is a Wednesday.
My job didn’t change yesterday morning. The students didn’t change. Early risers are early risers- they are a community defined by their alarm clocks, or perhaps in some cases, their body’s clock. They know one another, but rarely exchange more then “Morning,” before we finish savasana. Maybe it's the dark sky or that they snuck out of bed before their partner or children rose; maybe they just don’t want to talk (hey- I get that. It’s 5:45am) Regardless, the Wednesday morning studio is typically a quiet one, that is until we practice.
OTM uses the tools of yoga, meditation and self-inquiry to inspire leaders to create conscious, sustainable change.
The experience was profound and one day I hope to write a summary of all I learned. Today, it still feels too massive and so I’m going to choose one point. We spoke a lot about thinking/talking/listening to the “person behind the person.”
What does that mean? Here’s my take…We’re each a fusion of experiences, exchanges, relationships, love, trauma, culture, family and history that bring us to the present moment. We’re evolving, living, breathing people- but we carry with us down to our teensy genetics the history of our family's past. And so if we are all an individual product of every moment that’s come before, maybe our outward (insert emotion/feeling here) i.e. anger is actually coming from a place of fear. Maybe our sensitivity is coming from a place of loss. Maybe our overzealous humor is a form of protection. That’s the person behind the person.
OTM teaches a lot about how we are in relationship... with ourselves, our students, our partners, friends, family, strangers. When I arrive in the classroom to teach, I’m not only need to consider what my students bring to the room, but also everything that I bring to the room. As the leader, I accept the challenge: how can we be in relationship with one another in a way that feels good, comfortable, joyful, safe. How can we be together even though we are not the same?
My job didn’t change yesterday morning. It was still a Wednesday- just the day after the Election. But as I drove to the studio, I was nervous in my body. The world felt unsettled and I was unsure how to hold the space.
What do I bring to the classroom? I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am the older sister to an adopted sister. I am a citizen. My family is Irish. I’ve worked in healthcare and business and wellness. I attended public school in a non-diverse community. I have two Masters Degrees. I am a Bostonian. I’ve experienced terrorism intimately and in my core. I’ve witnessed the depths of mental illness. I live with PTSD. I am a yoga instructor. I am a healer.
I woke up yesterday knowing I felt the feels- and knew my students may not feel the same. The person behind the person has reasons for feeling like they do- just like me.
As students began to enter the studio- they were talkative. Most had just woken up and many went to sleep well before the election results came in. (I mean hello…these are 6am yogis!). There were lots of feels in that room. And unlike every other Wednesday- they needed a witness and a place to be heard. The studio was animated.
Photo Credit: Renee Choi
I don’t know what the right move is as a yoga instructor. I’m not sure there is a right move. I'm not sure how to hold space all the time. I'm new at this. This is what I did.
As we came to a seat at the front of our mats, eyes closed and hands resting gently, I spoke from a place of honesty. “I never invite you to create an intention for your practice. I believe we all come to the mat for different reasons and an intention doesn't always jive with that very personal reason. But today feels a little different. I feel the energy in the room and hear the conversation. So today, I invite you to send out into the universe an intention for your practice. Let it be for you, your family, a loved one or someone you don't even know. Let it be big or small. Let it be something that is present right now. May it bring you some ease.”
And then we practiced. We practiced hard. And focused on our core- where our guts, our instinct and values live. Doesn’t matter if they’re different. Doesn’t mean we talk about them. Just means we worked them out- together, knowing we're not the same. I tried to remember the students behind the students and the teacher behind me. And I’m going to try as hard as I can to keep doing that.