Sit still already, I inwardly commanded. The final day of a weekend-long gathering with fellow certified Baptiste Power Yoga teachers, I wriggled restlessly on a foam block atop my mat attempting to get comfortable. Maybe I need two blocks. Damn hips. No, straighten out my right leg, the one with a stiff knee devoid of any remaining cartilage. That’s what I get for insisting on just one more marathon. A little spinal twist right and left. That’ll bring some relief…
It’s not about me.”
Her words stopped me mid-spiral in my poor-me and my woeful stiff back descent. Because until that moment, I was solely focused on me. Not the amazing group of teachers preparing for certification around me. Not the giant rainbow of mats canvasing the studio floor supporting our collective growth as teachers to serve them, our students and communities, not ourselves. Hearing this simple phrase – the mantra that teacher leader Bethany Lyons (owner of Lyons Den Power Yoga) uses when she finds herself caught up in her thoughts while teaching, elicited a smack-in-the-head reality check with what I’ve been spending way too much time doing: making it all about me.
Make it about him.”
Six people showed up for my class yesterday. The room can hold, I don’t know, 60 yogis? Before I launched into my WTF litany of whys, however – are my classes too hard, does my voice grate, did my students go with a Rodney Yee DVD practice in lieu of my class – I summoned Bethany’s words and paused long enough to meet the gaze of a man struggling in Warrior II. It’s about him, Shannon. He came to your class, along with the five other yogis, and needs your support. In that moment I stepped out of my thoughts and got present to what he needed: a gentle adjustment of his front knee, an invitation to relax his toes, his jaw, and deepen his breath. I stayed with him until I saw it happen, and his gift to me was a smile and complete shift in energy.
And it isn’t limited to yoga. Limiting the practice of making it about others instead of me to the studio floor would be to miss out entirely. Yoga practice, and teaching, for me, are a microcosm of life. How am I showing up for others in the grocery store line? The hipster coffee shop down the street – can I relax and interact with the nattily-decked out couple with retro-cool Sperry topsiders, designer sunglasses and motorcycle jackets without worrying about my getup of sweaty tights and tangled hair after my AM class? Can I hold a conversation with the new neighbors next door without prattling on about soles-of-feet woes from walking barefoot on hardwood floors all day? It’s about them, not me.
Dogs provide the biggest head-check, I’ve found. Volunteering at an animal rescue in Pennsylvania before moving to Boston pulled me out of me zone time and again. Duchess, the female Boxer recovering from a horrible experience in a puppy mill retreated away from me every time she sensed I was somewhere else. She, along with Monty the pitt bull retriever, and Piper, the small in size but giant in attitude terrier taught me to put 100% attention on them. No time for ruing in my head, just gentle strokes behind the ears and an awesome game of Kong toy toss and fetch worked best.
“Then do it for someone else!”
Getting out of my head in my yoga practice is probably the biggest challenge. Comparing – to anything – the student next to me, the practice I did yesterday, the teenage butt I had thirty years ago, is a frequent head space I find myself in. As is what’s for breakfast after class – kale smoothie or ten croissants? But calling to mind someone else generally pulls me out of it. A former teacher of mine implored the entire class to “do it for someone else!” during a marathon round of Wheel pose. My late papa was suffering at the time and would have given anything to pop up out of his library wing chair and into a big heart-opening Wheel pose. So I did it for him. Ten times.
Because in that moment, I made it about him. And I’m working toward adding more moments of making it about them instead of me.
Because in the end that is when I’m my best ‘Me’.