Twenty-three years ago, I walked into my first yoga class. A friend had suggested it, having noticed I was a little high strung. I drank four double-talls a day, my back hurt all the time, and I yelled a lot. So I took him up on it. It was the weirdest experience. I asked my body to do such unfamiliar things; but when I walked out, although I knew I’d be sore the next day, I felt like I’d had a massage—from the inside.
The class was taught by Aadil Palkhivala, one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world. But I didn’t know that. All I knew in the beginning was that his language was precise, his expectations were high but doable, and he made me laugh. I absolutely loved his class and became a regular.
One day I got there and it wasn’t him teaching. My heart sank. I looked everywhere for my invisibility cloak so I could slink out unnoticed. But there was nothing for it. I was already sitting on my mat. When the substitute teacher walked in, I was so full of disappointment, judgment and comparison I couldn’t even hear what he was saying. Eventually, I got with the program, and he turned out to be a brilliant teacher as well. Whether or not he had been brilliant, that class was when my real practice began.
Before that, Aadil was the authority, so my body was more of a slave than an ally. I did what he said. The communication was one way: from mind to body. (The opposite of what he wanted, but that’s how it was.) Now there was this sub, and I didn’t immediately trust him. Ironically, this lack of trust was what introduced me to a better way to practice yoga. When he gave an instruction, I wouldn't just do it, I would check in, “is this working for me? is my body all right? are we good?” This conversation with myself was tentative at first, but eventually it became mindful, even sweet. My body and mind were allies, and communication was going both ways. And that, my friends, is a real yoga practice.
So, if you get to class and there's a sub, it may be a sign you’re ready for an even deeper experience. You are on the threshold of a more conscious relationship with this miraculous vehicle you're been given. Your practice has a chance to dig its roots into your own soil, and become truly yours.
Move mountains to show up for that class.