I did something I’m not very proud of the other day. In my mind, I was going to what I knew would be an amazing yoga class with one of my all-time favorite teachers. This teacher also attracts some of my all-time favorite fellow students, many of whom have become my friends. I was looking forward to this experience all week – a great, big, juicy practice happily ensconced within my yoga kula.
When I arrived at the studio, however, I immediately had the sense that something was amiss. None of my yoga friends were in the room; in fact, I didn’t recognize any of the students present. And—horror of horrors!—there was a sub for the class.
My mood plummeted. I even noticed myself getting angry at the unexpected circumstance. For several minutes, I struggled with an internal debate as to whether or not I should get up and leave. I am more than a little ashamed to say that my ornery side got the better of me; I rolled up my mat and hightailed it out of there. I may or may not even have gotten a bit feisty with the studio managers. I do, after all, have a largely pitta constitution as determined by yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda. I make every effort to keep it in check, but the fiery flames of this dosha are always flickering just beneath the surface ready to leap out and singe the nearest victim. This time, disappointment weakened my self-control and the poor studio manager was my unsuspecting prey.
Upon reflection, I feel like I failed a test. As a yogi, I know that the things that life throws at you—good, bad or even just mildly annoying as in this case—are all a lesson. I don’t want to be overly dramatic. In the grand scheme of things, I realize this was an extremely minor occurrence – things just didn’t happen to go my way at the yoga studio (#firstworldproblems). But, it is an interesting exercise to explore my reaction.
Why couldn’t I, for example, use this as an opportunity to try a new teacher? To get out of my comfort zone, even if just a little bit? I am nothing if not a creature of habit; it would do me good to shake things up a little. Taking a yoga class taught by someone with whom I am not familiar, amongst a group of people I don’t know well, would be useful for me.
It’s also a reminder of the danger in relying on things always going according to plan. We all know that isn’t ever going to happen – the world just doesn’t work like that. One of yoga’s supreme gifts is learning how to surf the crazy waves that life throws on our shores. The practice is a tool for cultivating what one of my teachers refers to as “homeostasis;” maintaining a consistent inner sense of calm despite outward circumstances. In a very small way, my recent studio experience could have been an excellent opportunity for me to practice that. And I completely missed the boat.
Of course, we are all busy and our time—and money—is precious. No one really wants to open their wallet for a class, make all the necessary arrangements including signing up ahead of time, rushing out of work, schlepping our yoga mats on the metro, etc. only to have what we consider to be a sub-par experience. But a slightly deeper exploration might provide a way to practice yoga off the mat as well as on it. There will be plenty of times when life throws far more than just a substitute yoga teacher our way. And how will we deal with those circumstances? Running away may not be quite as easy.
That’s the beauty of yoga – our mat becomes a laboratory for exploring our nature (even when we just roll it up and scurry out of the room). In the end, I guess I did learn a bit of a lesson, even though I may have burned the poor studio manager in the process. The next time things don’t go my way or go as planned, I will try to check in with myself before checking out of the situation. And I’ll also try to keep my pitta nature in check so as not to leave any toasted collateral damage in my wake.