“The cycle of life (in the yoga studio, that is).” by David M. Wolgin, Ph.D.
I had my last practice in my first “yoga home” this past week. I’m moving out of the area, so this was my last opportunity to return to the Shala where I received my training and to have my last practice of the Ashtanga Primary Series. I have been coming to this Shala for about two and a half years, and I most recently received my 200 hour teacher-training certification there, spending the last 4 months enrolled in their intensive curriculum. During this time, my identity as a yogi (not to mention my physical body) has been transformed. Along the way, relationships were forged, bonds were made, lessons were learned, progress was applauded, injuries were nursed, and during this past week, tears were shed.
As I approached my last practice, I was curious about how it was going to feel. I messaged one of my yoga buddies who was going to practice with me that she shouldn’t be surprised if I cried during the practice. “No need to worry,” I said. “It’s just me processing stuff.” It ended up being a really nice practice. I still can’t catch the bind on my own on Marichyasana A (left side), but I did get headstand for 10 solid breaths in the middle of the room without a spot! As I was lying in Savasana, I was paying particular attention to my emotions. I was initially struck by how calm I felt. I questioned myself, thinking “What does that mean, David? Does this mean you’re fine with leaving? Shouldn’t you be more emotional? This is the end, you know?” And so on.
But as I lay there in Corpse Pose, thinking about all of this, I heard some voices behind me, about five feet away. There were two voices: one belonged to one of my beloved instructors, and the other belonged to a student who was brand new to the Shala and to Ashtanga yoga. With my eyes closed, I heard snippets of things like, “Your first time?”… “2006?”… “Never did Ashtanga before?”… “No problem”… “This is how we start off…” From there, I heard my teacher introduce Surya Namaskara A (the Sun Salutation) to this new student in the most beautiful, elegant, lyrical manner. Her style of speaking – her rhythm, tone, and cadence – was only part of what was so moving to me. Her voice was steady, melodic, soothing, and almost poetic. As I listened, I had to resist the impulse to reach back over my head and touch my teacher’s leg. I wanted to pet her or grab her yoga pants and somehow communicate to her, “Hey, this is really cool.” Instead, I just lay there and took in the moment as fully as I could, and I thought to myself about the cycle of life. Here I was at the end of a practice, at the end of my teacher-training program, and at the end of my time here at this Shala, and here behind me was a woman who was just starting the Primary Series for the first time.
This was my beautiful moment that I was waiting for. I recognized myself in this unknown woman. It was not long ago that I was she, and I was just learning the sequences for the Primary Series for the first time. When I first started here, I hadn’t even considered becoming a yoga instructor (seriously). But here was this woman, just starting out, and there I lay, about to move on to a new chapter of my life. The cycle of life in the yoga studio continues. My ending becomes a new beginning for me, and this unknown woman’s beginning will evolve toward some kind of end for her in the future. I felt very connected to humanity in that moment. As Pattabhi Jois often said, while quoting from the Bhagavad Gita, “Practice, and all is coming.” I was wondering what was going to come to me during this practice, and this is what came. Namaste.
–David M. Wolgin, Ph.D.