I’ve never been much of a namaste girl.
What is namaste? You hear it around yoga speak all the time. Technically? Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you”. For a teacher and student, Namaste allows two individuals to come together energetically to a place of connection and timelessness, free from the bonds of ego-connection. If it is done with deep feeling in the heart and with the mind surrendered, a deep union of spirits can blossom. (Courtesy of Yoga Journal online.)
Right. Well…as a yoga student, I’m certainly not bowing to anyone. And as a teacher? I wouldn’t expect it from any of my students. I might actually look at them like they’ve grown a third head and wonder, in what realm, they think they need to bow to me. Because I’m their yoga teacher? Insert major eyeroll *here*.
Now. I mean no disrespect. And allow me to clarify that statement. If two individuals seek an energetic and spiritual connection with feeling that comes from the heart, and with the mind surrendered, I honor that. And don’t let my piddly opinion warrant shock, anger, or righteousness in you. There are many – in fact, most – yoga studios and teachers in the world that practice this. The art of yoga harkens back to an ancient practice, one that is often misunderstood and misrepresented in western culture. It is, indeed, at its roots, meant to be highly spiritual in nature. It is meant as a release and surrender of the mind to the heart and spirit. And yet, when in the past I was on the receiving end of a “namaste”, it all felt so – phony – to me. Like we were trying too hard. Does it make you a better yogi if you read and learn all the things you should do, feel, be? Does it help your zen if you just fake it till you make it? I really don’t know. I’m not an expert. Clearly.
Here’s what I DO know, thanks to practicing and teaching different types of classes, and thanks to a higher level psych degree I currently do nothing with: Everyone has a different kind of emotional release. In fact, you can have multiple types, given your state of mind on any given day. Some have a proclivity to gentle, stress-reducing measures like bubble baths, meditating, etc. Some find the need to get it out aggressively, like in boxing. Others can find the simplest of release in laughter. It’s amazing how a good laugh just lightens you up instantly. Lest I forget about the artists in the room that simply need to “zone out” via painting, drawing, coloring, or the like. My point is – if you’re still following me – you have to find what works for you. And it doesn’t need to be just one thing. You know yourself better than anyone. So you know when you’ve found *the thing* that relaxes you, calms you down, or makes you feel better.
That is your surrender. When you’ve let go of your stressors and anxiety producers, your anger, your emotional upheaval – you’ve surrendered your mind to your heart and spirit. You stop thinking about it so much, even if only for a short time. And in that short time, you feel better. Maybe you do need to connect with others to achieve this. Maybe you just need to connect to yourself. Whatever it is, I urge you to seek it out and find it.
I am one of those that benefits from multiple styles of release. Sometimes, I have the urge to hit things if I’m upset. I know, for me, that means I need a physical outlet. I need to be active in some way. That’s when I turn to kickboxing, running, or some form of physical exertion. I’m able to spend all that pent up energy into a focused area, and my mind goes blank during that time. I stop thinking so much, which, if you’re like me, typically leads to even MORE stress and anxiety. But sometimes, I do need something calmer. Sometimes I’ll sit for hours editing photographs or doing something artistic to ease my mind. And, obviously, yoga. What kind of teacher would I be if I didn’t actually enjoy it, right?
I don’t do or teach yoga to imitate the ancient eastern practice. I feel that would be a disservice to the culture. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe because I don’t focus on that, I’m doing a disservice. But you know what? I’m doing what works for me, and what seems to be working for the people that keep coming back. I focus on the fundamental uses of yoga for this daily, hectic lifestyle we all seem to lead now. It’s an hour to unplug. It’s an hour for ourselves. It’s an hour to learn how to be stronger. How to move our bodies in weird new ways. How to be at peace with our bodies and instead of seeing them as “imperfect”, embracing the perfections and using them to shatter stereotypes. We laugh in yoga. We laugh at ourselves when we can’t grab a foot. We cheer each other on when one of our students holds Downward Dog for three cycles without cursing me out. We also relax. We try new things. We improve. Every time a student walks in my door and gets their butt on a mat, they improve their bodies and minds. Heck. We even give out stickers.
And because every kind of person needs a different form of release on any given day, we offer a variety. In addition to the relaxation of yoga, we also do kickboxing. It’s a safe space and place to 1) Learn fundamentals of form and movement, 2) Learn basic techniques for self defense, and 3) Let the aggression out. It’s not for everyone, but it works for those who need it. And I can’t forget about Dance Yoga. It’s still fairly new, but I sought it out as a class offering so that my students could laugh when they most needed to. Have you ever been in Downward Dog, shaking your rear end as it’s hanging in the air above you? Tell me you don’t chuckle even at the thought. This is a chance to listen to fun music, upbeat music, and really feel your body and be in tune with it, all while you practice basic yoga poses. Even I, who really shudders at the thought of being the center of attention, encourage people to do it because I can almost guarantee – for that hour – you’ll let go of everything else, and enjoy yourself.
So while I’m not entirely opposed to meditation, chanting Oms, lighting candles, burning incense and the like – it’s simply not my go-to. Maybe its yours, and if you know that about yourself, that’s fantastic. If a student were to ask me to offer that, I’d be entirely open to it. Because ultimately, as a teacher, my responsibility is to my students, and ensuring that they have a pleasant and fulfilling experience. It’s not about me, what I like, and what I dislike. As a teacher and business owner, I’d be horrendously arrogant and stupid to be that obstinate. But for YOU, as an individual, as a student, again – I can’t say this loud enough. Find what works for you. Find your release. I will say that I believe 100000% in the health benefits of yoga, be it slow and relaxing or upbeat and laughter-filled. You’ll be amazed what your body will do for you the more you teach it.
If you’re still reading, bravo. I tend to get long-winded when I write. So I’ll leave you with this last sentiment. I encourage you to come see what we’re all about, what we offer, and if any of those things works for you. And I promise, I won’t expect you to bow to me. I’m not a namaste girl, remember?