I've turned up to many a yoga class frazzled, almost-too-late, having forgotten a headband or with a non-favoured yoga top and still composing emails in my head as I step into the studio. I've wondered, who are all these serene looking people who have evidently been preparing in child's pose for at least the last fifteen minutes, and who are all those other limber yogis warming up by stepping through a downward dog?
Nevermind, I'm here now and I'm looking forward to the 'good bits' of the class.
For me, it's the third chaturanga when you're warm enough to be moving smoothly through it but not so far into the class that your shoulders protest as you drop into low push-up and hold it for a looooong five counts of breath. It's hitting the second set of bakasana without toppling over and floating there for a few breaths. It's opening up into half-moon pose and holding the calm and gentle focus I need in my mind to balance there for a while. It's the grace of tree pose and the lightness of a steady shoulder-stand before we make our way into savasana. Now there's a good bit everyone can agree on!
I'm not really 'there' for some of the other poses, simply going through the back-bend motions or focussing the mind elsewhere as we sink deeper into a warrior II when the lovely teacher decides to take the opportunity to talk about hip alignment - wasting crucial counting time which means we're stuck there for what must be a million breaths.
For some poses, I actively concentrate on just getting through, just passing the time until the next relish-worthy pose.
Finally, in savasana - during which I have never, ever, emptied my mind - I reflect on the class and run through an almost automatic scan of how my chatarungas felt, if I really twisted from the rib-cage today, if I really released properly in half-pigeon and goodness, were my shoulder-blades moving in the right plane?!
And then, in those last few precious moments before we're told to come back into our bodies (because we're supposed to be meditating elsewhere) I realise that the body is grateful for the entire class and that the whole class was the 'good bit'. We don't move through a 15 minute 'favourites' pose-list and rush off into the world again for a reason. We move through a 90 minute sequence of poses because together they are what the body and mind need - and we don't even realise it.
One of my favourite teachers used to repeat that how you are on the mat is how you are in life. He'd call us out on the things we all do - in life and on the mat - grip too hard, push too strongly, refuse ourselves grace, move without ease, hold the breathe. More recently, I've come to realise that something I don't always do on the mat is remain present, in the moment, in whatever pose we happen to be doing. I do it in life as well - look forward to what the mind thinks might be the 'good bits' and spend whole weeks without having been present in a moment.
I'm going into a couple of yoga workshops this afternoon and I will try my best to remember that the whole thing is the good bit. On the mat. In life.
By Jenny Jiang
The Yoga Social Team