I was a yoga teacher before I understood the meaning of my practice. Nabil says that we have the students we deserve. Whenever I used to complain about a student for any kind of reason, Nabil would say : you have the students you deserve.
When I started my yoga practice, I though mainly about the difficulty of the postures and how my body reacted in pain. I hated the pain. My hamstrings were like wooden sticks, my strength was lacking and I could not hold any kind of posture, I was short of breath, not to mention my concentration, I could be disturbed by an ephemeral fly.
Around me, people were focused and seemed to be in perfect harmony with the teachings. I felt like an outsider but kept on practicing.
The relaxation part was impossible for me. I couldn’t keep my arms open, neither my legs open, something had to move, something had to be done. And whenever the teacher would suggest to relax a part of the body, I would realize that I was not even listening, too much concerned with my daily problems or my existential questions.
I was everywhere but I was not present on my yoga mat.
I had the advantage (or maybe the inconvenient) of being naturally very flexible and improved quickly. Only a year after I began my practice, I could already do advanced postures and I felt pride. The day I could do the full spilt I felt an immense sense of satisfaction. I never though myself able to do such advanced postures with my body, it took me by surprise whenever I practiced. People would congratulate me, and admired my determination. It all led to self satisfaction and a regular practice.
But yet, I had no idea of what yoga really was.
Sometimes, I hear students or even teachers complaining about the students who are interested in form, who are only challenged by the physical aspect. But I need to tell them here : don’t judge. Each one of us has to start somewhere. And if the ego or the physical part of the practice is leading us to practice yoga, then let it be. A path towards yoga is a path, it is a personal one. And we are also physical bodies, physical bodies with competitive minds. Let’s not deny who we are. Competitiveness is not something bad. It’s part of our nature.
One month before I got pregnant, I was practicing a lot, and doing more and more challenging postures. I was in this state of mind where I felt invincible. But when I got a positive on my pregnancy test, my first thought was: will yoga practice hurt me? Will a yoga practice provoque a miscarriage? Shall I continue or shall I stop?
And needless to say that everyone had his point of view on the subject. Some would say I should practice less, other would say I should practice some postures and some others not, and some would be very radical, you should not practice at all ! I never heard anyone say: “listen to your body”.
But was it their fault? And did I only knew how to listen to my body? How do listen?
No, listening is not a small thing. Listening is one of the hardest thing.
We are being taught to talk but we are not being taught to listen.
So I started my pregnancy, completely messed up : nausea were killing me, I had headaches, and was vomiting numerous times a day. I lost weight, appetite, and even any desire to do anything. I was depressed, sad and fragile. Suddenly, some of my childhood was back in my dreams. Suddenly, I was back to my demons, and felt my body was betraying me. I was not angry. I was sad. Most of the times, I would fall asleep before being able to sit on a mat and practice.
I remembered the advice given to me, and I though perhaps they are right.
How could yoga help me? I was a shadow of myself. I could barely stay awake for an hour. My body was in procreation mode and I had to stop the practice.
Then one day, I was about three months pregnant, I woke up with the urge to practice.
It was one of those rare times, when I did not feel nauseous or sick.
So I started practicing and noticed that everything was normal. Very normal. I could do the postures, not even the prenatal ones, no the “adapted” postures and the smile was back on my face.
The ego smile….
Did I know by then anything about yoga?
I was still in the darkness, still blinded by my ego.
I’m not at war with my ego. Ego is not good or bad. Ego is what it is. It’s where we are. It’s a place, a state, a confortable one sometimes.
As blind as I was, I was practicing without listening to my body. I was even bragging about it : look at me, I can do this and that….I had not changed !
My true satisfaction was that I could still practice.
So my fear turned out to be this : I didn’t want my pregnancy to hold me back. I wanted to remain in control.
Then one day, I woke up, very tired and very sad. I was alone, it was about ten, and my blue yoga mat was waiting for me in the yoga hall.
I started practicing.
That particular day, was particularly sunny. A lot of light was pouring in.
I practiced one round, then two rounds of sun salutation, and noticed the sun on my face, and its warming effect on my skin. It was pleasurable so I stopped the practice a few minutes. Then, back to the sun salutations, in the downward facing dog, I can’t explain how it exactly occurred, but I started feeling a huge relief, bringing me back to my mat. I bent my knees, and instead of doing the next posture, I cried.
An immense feeling of happiness had overtaken me. Yet I was in pain, the relief yoga made me feel was so great, so perfect, I couldn’t help being grateful.
The practice was healing, the practice was a healer, a magician healer. The practice was talking to my body, talking to me. I was not at all with an endless conversation with myself, I was in the moment, in this very real moment of pure joy and gratefulness.
And I wondered : how beautiful these tears are ! How relieving ! How could I have stayed all this time without crying those tears? I needed to cry them so badly!
Only my body movements, the awareness that I was felt pain, made my day, made me so happy, so contented.
Pregnancy allowed me to be weak and embrace it, to be weak and realize that my body was not a finality, neither was its shape.
The flows of hormones made me more sensitive to what was really happening in me. It’s like a place where there is the beautiful music of nature, but we can’t hear it anymore, we are too preoccupied to hear.
On my yoga mat, I was listening to my pain, I could sense it, feel it in my body, but not in a bad way, I could feel it healing me, healing my mind.
At some point, I was cuddling myself, bringing my arms around my knees with love and compassion.
It was love.
Nabil says we have the students we deserve. And here, for a short but empowering moment of peace, I was the best student I ever had.