While the second day of yoga practice with Maureen was at the same hour and location as the first day, it was striking how different the energy in the room was. A couple of people left early in the class and others struggled visibly and audibly with the poses throughout. The class took place at an outdoor pavilion outside the fitness center at the W resort. The resort catered to upper class individuals who were looking for a total get away experience in the Caribbean—many were looking for a fitness class type of yoga experience and were thrown off by Maureen’s very different approach. I found myself in awe of her integrity. As someone who teaches new people every single day—vacationers who were not necessarily very committed to yoga—she could of easily teach classes that were more approachable to the newer, more posture oriented practitioner. Yet instead she chooses to teach a slow but challenging yoga classes that are guided by her own tradition of Amit yoga. As a result, Maureen runs the risk of alienating people before they have even tried yoga; a couple of people left the room as soon as we started swinging our arms, likely with the judgement that such movements would be the entire class and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that these people had dismissed yoga before they had even tried it. Yet in turn, Maureen’s style offers some people, like the people whose stories I shared earlier, an opportunity to connect right away with the deeper aspects of yoga. . At the same time, it’s not just another yoga class for those like me who have gone to dozens in my lifetime. Her class pushes all levels of practitioners to take yoga to a new level.
As I held standing postures so long that my legs cramped and my arms shook, my body urged me to give up and get out. Yet as I focused on breathing into the posture, I was reminded of the type of the type of mental-physical challenge that I hadn’t always associated with yoga. Through years of distance sports and extended outdoor trips, I had grown accustomed to pushing myself far past what felt physically comfortable. The benefit of this is that I had developed a great deal of mental strength and pain tolerance and was not one to struggle with difficult situations. The downside was that I had trained myself to ignore blisters, injuries, and infections that in fact needed my attention. A large scar on my right calf from a too long ignored staff infection is a visual reminder of the consequences of ignoring my body. Since practicing yoga, I have only done distance sports and outdoor trips recreationally, and I have for the most part welcomed my new compassionate and sensitive approach to my body. While I do challenge myself in yoga classes and in my own practice—I do not typically need to exert the same degree of mental strength. Yet sometimes I miss the release one feels after working themselves that hard. In Maureen’s class I felt both that challenge through the long holds and that sweet release as she allows time after each posture for the practitioner to rest and feel its effects. The powerful nature of this experience has inspired me to work harder find my edge in yoga, while still maintaining compassion towards and awareness of my body. I was reminded of an idea which, while not new to me, felt particularly pertinent to this class. I decided to share it as we gathered as a group at the end of class: “If we develop mental strength to breathe through challenging situations on our yoga mat. We will be able to use that strength to breathe through them in the rest of our lives too.”