My yoga teacher that evening was a thin muscular guy with grayish black hair and this fierce vitality that is both incredibly compelling and abrasive all at once. He’s the type of guy that swears in the middle of class so that all the serious yogis can let go of their “good/evil” references. He can be really annoying when he’s telling you to get into these impossible contortions while maintaining complete awareness of your breath, tailbone, toes and fingertips all at once. He goes out of his way to mimic the chatter in your mind during your practice, if only to point it out to you.
I had heard of those tricksters that come into your life to test you; the ones that will bring out your demons and push all of your buttons so that you recognize the buttons you have.
“We cannot always control what happens to us, but we CAN control how we react. That’s yoga; understanding your reactions and learning to control them. It’s a discipline.”
I wasn’t controlling it. I was angry. Didn’t he understand how impossible his commands were? We were in yoga class, not some sort of military drill. How do you remember to track your breath, toes, bhandas and alignment in four breaths? Who does he think we are?
“Now you’re going to shift all of your weight onto your left foot. Keep those toes lifted! Push your right leg up towards the sky behind you and stack your hips.” I struggled to find my balance and he came up behind me to pull my right leg back into alignment – at his touch I collapsed. We tried again, and once again I collapsed.
“Trust me; you’ve got to trust me!” he said in a not so gentle tone. “One more time; you can do this.” I did it for a few seconds before he walked away and said “just do your best.”
Button #1: Trust. That’s a loaded word right there. I’m barely learning to trust my own body to get into these poses, much less some guy adjusting me in yoga class.
You’d be amazed at the things that run past your mind when you’re trying your hardest not to hold onto anything that comes into your mind. Here I am in a balance pose remembering the day my body betrayed me.
I was in the fourth grade and had quite the audience awaiting my performance in my front yard. The audience included my family and some of the older neighborhood boys. I needed to prove myself. I got into position: front foot perpendicular to my back foot; arms raised as I wind-milled my arms to the ground into a cartwheel. The next thing I know, I’m in the car with my parents on the way to the hospital.
“I want the hot pink one,” I said to the nurse. There’s nothing like rocking a hot pink cast with all your boring outfits. My right arm had suffered a sprain as I had put too much weight on it.
Back on the mat: I remember this now – the feeling of my body betraying me. I was supposed to impress all of my friends with my amazing cartwheel and instead I collected signatures on my arm for six weeks. Oh the humiliation!
My friend had a pin the other night that said “button free.” I asked her what it meant. She said that when she works with youth teaching them yoga or breath-work she teaches them to be “button free;” meaning having an awareness of their buttons so not to allow anyone else to push them.
Damn good class (the swearing is to throw off all of the yogis).