“Oh, sh*t.” I walked into the packed yoga shala, and a rainbow of yoga mats lined up edge to edge all the way up to the walls. I scanned the room for any spot in which I might wedge myself. I only saw an ocean of yogis from all over the globe that came, like I had, to practice under the tutelage of the father of Ashtanga yoga, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
It was 4:50am. A fellow traveler the night before told me to make sure to, “Arrive early, it fills up fast.” Apparently, ten minutes early was not early enough. Then, I saw two spots! One was in the front row, a little off the right, just in front of the platform from where Saraswathi, Pattabhi Jois’s daughter, would be teaching. The other was ON the platform itself, perpendicular to the rest of the class. I did not want to be in the front row on my first day, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to be on display up on that platform. I didn’t run, but I’ll use a good yoga term when I say, I walked with “intention.” With a slap-crack I unrolled my mat to stake my claim. I found child pose and took a few cleansing breaths, knowing this was exactly what I wanted andwhere I needed to be.
I started teaching yoga in 2003. By 2007, I gained a nice following of students, but my yoga grew stale, my life feeling similar. Like so often, our life on our mat tends to reflect our life off our mat. I needed a shake up. I was too comfortable. One day, I went home, jumped online, and searched “YOGA INDIA.” I saw the link for the K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Institute at the top of the list. When I called the number, the first words from the voice over the crackling line were, “Do you know what time it is?!” This would be the first in a long line of moments of discomfort that would get me to where I am today.
The Mirror of Context
Yes, studying yoga in Mysore, India for 3 months did great things for my yoga practice and the understanding of my body, but, more than anything, India helped me cultivate a greater sense of understanding of who I was and who I am. The surroundings in which we live oftentimes narrate our idea of self.
When we take ourselves out of the context of our day-to-day life we are forced to discover our un-narrated self. Who am I beyond my job, beyond my family, beyond my friends? How full is my cup when I am by myself? We all want our cup of contentment and joy to be full, but we need to fill that cup from within. I love my job. I love my family. I love my friends. But, they don’t fill my cup, they overflow it. I fill my cup.
A Match Needs Friction
You don’t need to go to India to raise a greater sense of self-awareness. This is an extreme example. You just need to lean into those moments when you feel the pause of resistance. Not the pause of resistance coming from sensibility and “going with your gut,” but the pause of resistance from encountering the draw and repelling nature of the unfamiliar. When we lean into that friction, we hold hands with our anxiety, and it’s scary, it’s turbulent. But just like a match, we often need this friction to light that spark of discovery and self-actualization of our un-narrated self.
Friction for you might come from being out amongst the masses, or it might be found on the couch in the catacombs of your self, but be open to that sensation of “I don’t want to do that, but…I kinda do.” Because the next time you say, “Oh, sh*t,” might be the start of something great.
Ted (YogaTed) Roseen has been teaching yoga around the Twin Cities for over 20 years. He loves to teach. He also loves to travel. Roseen and his partner and crime, Sharon Picasso, have lead retreats all over the world for the last 15 years (before it was cool). The retreats, just like his yoga, invite people to take their own journey, and to give in to “play.” If Roseen was a vegetable, he would be Snap Pea.