Two flights, two hours jostling atop a bumpy Arizona desert road, and two Advil later I finally arrived at Mago Retreat Center. “Roll out your mat and join the circle!” our team leader Samuel enthused, as I masked a degree of dread behind my “sure thing” response. I came here, as did 17 other yogis, to assist a Baptiste Level 2 week-long yoga program. We arrived a few days prior, and before there was time to dump my bags and comb my hair, I joined the circle in Earth Hall and did my damnedest to create something that resembled Downward Facing Dog.
After 60 minutes or so softening the cement in my hips and shoulders acquired from spending hours locked into seat 22C, our team concluded by sharing individually what we wanted to create for ourselves and the participants through the program.
What miracle or miracles would you like to see happen?”
Geez, I dunno. To not fuck up? Avoid tripping over one of the 131 mats lined up throughout the room or dropping a 6’5″ dude in Wheel pose with a botched assist was my immediate idea of a miracle. As a first time assistant apprenticing my way through, I had a lot to learn, and a helluva lot at stake. So when Samuel asked us what miracle we’d like to see happen, I failed to see the bigger picture. I realize now why. The first few days of the program, before participants arrived, I made it all about me:
- Do everything right
- Make everyone on the team like me
- Prove that I’m a half-decent teacher that can hold up a 6’5″ dude in Wheel pose no problem
After two days taping the floors, arranging chairs, rehearsing our individual roles, practicing and giving feedback on assists with fellow apprentices (um…Shannon try not grabbing my nipple on that one) and receiving coaching on how best to support our leader/facilitator Paige Elenson, I prepared myself for the participants’ arrival – 131 badass yogis from 8 different countries ranging in age from 16-60.
You want your level of support, challenge, and learning to be a 10″
Paige implored everyone on our team to up our game, assuring that with support being a 10, it was expected of us to keep the level of challenge and learning equally high. It was at this point I got a taste of my first miracle (I experienced more than one by the end of the training): the power of support. Being constantly reminded by the more experienced assistants on my team that they ‘had my back’, I was free to fail, get up, try harder, and make a breakthrough. Pre-program the former me would have floated through workshop sessions watching participants as though I were a tourist…from the comfort of periphery. Witness instead of engage. But here, channeling the support of my team, I got off the bus and roamed freely, in between mats helping one participant assist another in Crow pose, assuring another participant she didn’t ‘suck at Chatturanga’ pose, she needed a modification – which I demonstrated – to regain her power. I never got the chance to assist a 6’5″ dude in Wheel pose, but I did give my deepest, most love-infused Half Pigeon assist to a woman who later hugged me back in gratitude.
Your word is your world”
Pre-program this phrase would have landed as nothing more than a pithy line to slap on a yogi muscle tee. Daily meditation and discussion with my apprentice team brought the meaning to light in a whole new way. One particular morning I wept for a good five minutes before I could regain enough composure to share with my peer Maureen what was bubbling up with my inner dialogue. For years I believed, and said both inwardly and outwardly that I struggled with showing physical affection: “I’m not a natural when it comes to assisting; I teach best with my projection and voice; I love being hugged but don’t know how to hug back” were common refrains. When our apprentice lead Suzie asked us all to rank our assisting skills before going out on the floor, my participants all gave 9s and 10s. Me? A 3 and a half. None of my peers, who experienced my assists, could understand it. “Honey, you are no 3 and a half. What’s going on in your head?”
My miracle came a day later, when I consciously chose to replace my inner ‘no’ with ‘love’ – love for placing my hands on another, love for the love I was sending into their bodies. And miracle of all miracles, I’m no longer a 3 and a half. I’m a 10 for assisting, a 10 for making my positive word my world from this day forward.
There are other miracles beginning to crystalize even now, several days since returning home, and I’m so excited to keep my level and challenge high on this awesome Baptiste Yoga path because the support is there. And that’s a miracle.