23 January, 2010

My Yoga teachers - some words for them :)

On Saturday 12th, 2009, I had the last class with Roger, at 8 Limbs, my last Yoga school in Seattle.

I was walking home (20 blocks : 1 block = 208 m : east, going up and the hill and then down the hill, very steep hill, by the way) afterwards, with my tall soy caramel machiatto in one of my hands and Madredeus on my ears (oficial video here), that crystal clear voice of Teresa Salgueiro, and the classic guitar playing on the background were having a soothing effect in all my body, mind and soul, and I was thinking how blessed I was for the opportunity of getting to know him and for having classes with him. And immediately, I thought about Mark, my 1st Yoga teacher in Seattle, that opened so many doors for me. 

Then, I found myself describing these persons in detail and why they were so important to me and to my path. This dialogue was happening inside of my head, while walking and listening to music at the same time, although I was on automatic pilot for walking, I can't recall the way.
When I got home, with a inner bright enthusiasm burning, I thought "I have to write about this"!

So, this post is dedicated to them, basically.

When all this started?

Late April this year I met someone in my Indian cooking vegetarian classes that, literally, ended up with my procrastination about the on going (sometimes seemed forever) difficulty of deciding about do or not to do yoga. I don't remember exactly what was the conversation about (we had many), but I'm sure it all started because of meditation. 

At that time, besides struggling about Yoga, I was in another deeper struggle: to find a daily routine for my meditations. I was trying several ones, but all of them seemed to be difficult to stick with. I talk a lot and throughout the years I've learned to be a good listener as well, so many conversations about mediation and spiritual subjects I had with this friend (you have no idea how good it was to find someone to talk about these subjects without the other person thinking you're nuts!) and we ended up dropping off at the Yoga studio were he had a good friend with him teaching Yoga classes.

The deal was superb! The studio was running a 1 month unlimited membership, for 1st time students, for $30! Wow! When he told me this, I couldn't believe, I thought he was kidding, the prices for Yoga in Seattle are not suitable for students (are you getting me, right?) and I went to check for myself: it was true.
The 1st classes were given by a lady teacher, a very nice and gentle person, the studio was in Fremont, a very active (mainly at night - bars and restaurants) neighborhood, but the studio was a small and very intimate one. I liked it very much and liked the approach. I don't remember her name, but I do remember she was very aware of us, of our limitations, she was kind and funny at the same time, she had a calm presence, like a true Yoga teacher should be, at least for me.

From those days on, I become very serious on Yoga. It was the light of my life at that time (and still is, truth to be told), I felt really good doing it, I felt lighter and a inner contentment after each class I had there.

Until I met the Yoga teacher that was friends with my friend.
The classes with him were pure torture to me, I never felt lighter and I lost all that inner contentment. I always felt heavy and my chest was tight after each class with him. It was something close to "not feel good enough to be there".
Then, I tried to understand why I was feeling that way, I didn't recall me treating him badly or with disrespect, by the contrary, my friend only said amazing things about him and how he was so advanced, spiritually speaking, and how he could help us moving forward in this chapter of our lives. I was curious about him and always looking forward to hear him and share my own experiences with him, that's what usually people do.
So, his description was not matching my feelings when I was having classes with him. And that was making me confused.
I started to observe him, that's my way to understand that I'm not reaching our its true meaning. 

I didn't like what I saw. And I saw a very weird behavior towards me, something that no one, in all the places that I went for Yoga (even afterward), did. And I had very difficult situations with him, believe me! and as I was observing him more and more, and more confused I was getting: I never could find a motive to his behavior. But I always knew that something was not right.
I stopped going to his classes when once he refused to give a class where the only student present was.... me.
I still remember his words: "do not put your shorts on, if it's only you, I will not give this class". 

It's very difficult to describe how I felt. My mind was shouting: "This guy is an idiot!!", "excuse me ??".
Then, he left to attend a friend's party somewhere else.

There were friends waiting for him outside....

Because of the friendship between my friend and him, we met outside of Yoga. My friend would carry him to almost every get-together we had. Totally unaware of what was going on.
I, literally, broadened up my boundaries for this friend, but I was never myself, that chatting, smiling person, which warm welcomes everyone, enthusiastic, and that has always something pleasant and funny to say. I was the quietest person you can imagine. I would barely talk when he was present. And the people who know me very well know: when I'm too quiet..... something is not right.
I think that I never got to know the person he is to his friends, which is sad, because he knows a lot and carries a lot of knowledge within him, but there is a gap between the theory and the practice. He's very selective in choosing who deserves to get or with whom he will share his knowledge.
And, definitely, I was not in his list.
But that's okay: we already know that we don't please everyone. And sometimes, it's for our own good! Just continue to move forward and looking for another opportunity.
The good about the Universe and Life is that we always have tons of opportunities! although our minds think in a slightly different way :).

This situation almost made me withdraw from Yoga, until one day, that little voice within and with whom I have very insightful dialogues, woke up and repeated hundreds of times "You have to go tomorrow, you have to go tomorrow". "tomorrow" was Sunday, it was a morning class and I usually don't do morning classes, because I'm not a morning person, but somehow this voice is powerful and I found myself driving all my tasks in that weekend towards to be free to go to that class, even go to bed early in the night before!
Mark was there, the class was full! the studio was packed and I saw, once more, a true Yoga teacher: totally aware of his students, sharing his knowledge and wisdom without any selection, like a true master opening doors to all of us. And I felt at home, again.
He even helped me to do the wheel, when he saw that I couldn't do it by myself. "You have to try", he said. And corrected other students, no one was left behind.
When I left that class, I felt lighter and that inner contentment returned, "I have to come back", I thought.
So I selected all Mark's classes - I was doing Yoga every single day.
Some days he couldn't give classes, and in those days I had my friend's friend teaching and I could compare the unbelievable difference between them.
Time went by and one day my inner voice surfaced again, repeating "you have to go tomorrow, you have to go tomorrow!" and I went there and it was just the two of us: we spent, literally 1 h 30m talking about spiritual matters.

It was the most enlightened conversation I've ever had with someone!
I had, the entire time, that feeling "it was meant to be", "he carries something that needs to be shared with me, I have something to learn with him". 

Listening to him talking about his spiritual path, his doubts, his questions, his answers, his findings, his readings, his visions .... I was nourishing my soul with all his knowledge and experience. Most of his past experience I was living and experiencing, so he was able to fully understand what it was happening to me. He was able to give answers to my questions. Actually, I only made questions, I was the listener in that meeting. The 3 rd eye burning the entire time, without any meditation or focus on my part to stimulate it.
He had always something new and wise to share with all of us, it was common for us to stay after the class talking with him. It was very pleasant, that warmness all around us, just like feeling that we are one, a deep connection among us.

Time went by and I went on vacations to Portugal and Mark and his wife moved to NY. I already knew about this moving and I knew deeply inside me that it was needed, after all, it not easy to let go someone that brought so much light into my life.
But, this is life, some stay and others have to go, fighting it will make us suffer even more, accepting it will bring us peace, the energy of the heart.

When I came back to Seattle, in August 2009, I had a very hard time to find a Yoga studio that could offer me what Mark offered us: Pranayama, Asanas and a full 20 minutes of meditation (sometimes guided meditation).
I dropped in several classes, in several studios in Seattle, and I ended up choosing the one closest to my place, after a class with Angela, where she sang the Gayatri Mantra at the end of the class, by her own, without any music, in such a sweet way that really touched me. Although the class had 20 students, the 1st membership deal was the ideal for my case, in less than 3 months I would be leaving Seattle for a long time. 

So, I decided to stick with this studio, the 8Limbs in Wedgwood, and I met wonderful people there. Most of them (like 95%) advanced students.

The only downside, from my point of view was the time dedicated to deep relaxation at the end of every class: too short.

I had classes with Angela, very soft but tough at the same time; with Dawn - very vigorous, even the level II (I sweated every time!); with Melina (I even got her dvd, amazing teacher, that links Yoga and Ayurveda) - I did Yoga at the wall for the 1st time in my life and let me tell you: it's not easy!; with Marni - sweet and very aware of the true value of our lives: with Chiara a very funny teacher that used to give the teacher training classes at that location, a class packed with students (more than 40 for sure!) and even in a so busy class she was able to identify the students in need of her help (me included) and help them! I  will never forget once that I told her in the beginning of her class that my knees were not that strong: people with VATA (air) constitutions see their joints (knees, ankles and so on) suffer more in the Fall, and she didn't forget, always looking at the people with similar problems and helping us with softer alternatives. I had a restorative Yoga class (on Fridays), something that was a huge surprise for me, and my best advice is: You must try it! Maygen is guiding it and her voice take us to other dimension, literally! For me it was not easy.... mind too active :). 

To finish this long list of teachers,  my favorite one Roger. Roger decided to take a break off teaching, but before doing it, he was teaching every Saturday late afternoon. The time was perfect to me and once I saw his class on the schedule I immediately thought: "I have to go". 

The 1st class I had with him was a very intimate one: we were only 5 students. These are my favorite classes of all! 

He has an extensive knowledge of the Indian culture and Yoga philosophy and he used to talk about the Yoga Sutras in the classes and lead me to look for the Sutras, something that I'm reading right now (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) and I highly recommend. 
His attitude toward us was very gentle and his care was genuine, something that, again, touched me. 

All of us have a shell around us, like a protective layer, something that protects us from the exterior world, something that protects our deepest feelings from surface, probably avoiding more suffering from our point of view, something that make us feel safer, but at the same time, a layer that keep us stalled, something that don't let us to move forward, to take the chance, to go the distance.

Although I'm very aware of my own physical limitations, I never talked about them or said anything about them to any friend or Yoga teacher. 
If there was any asana that was fearful of doing it, I would immediately choose the softer alternative to that posture, without asking for help to do it. If someone would ask, I'd simply say: "I can't do it", leaving no space for further comments. 
Roger was the one that broke down this protective shell in a very admirable way, with humility and enthusiasm. 

We were about to do the headstand posture, something that always scared me because, being a challenging asana, I always observed 1st the other students doing it and I saw many of them (mainly in my friend's friend classes) turned red colored in their heads and faces, and that was frightening.  I even bought some books and read about it to understand it better.
So Roger asked us if we could do this posture. 2 persons said no, me and another student. He asked us why and I sincerely answered: "because I'm afraid of doing it". And I will never forget his words afterwards "Today is the day to overcome your fears. Let's do it!" and he helped us doing it, explaining every single step.
I think I held that posture for 30s or so, very close to the wall but not touching it,  and I never felt the weight of my whole body over my head, 70% was over my arms. To finish it, we did the counter-posture, child pose.

When I got up, it was like someone had done a very intense cleaning inside of my head: I was feeling extremely lighter!
I never felt that way before, it was difficult to describe and new to me. I was so happy that he helped us and fought our resistance based on fear, that I even hugged him at the end of that class!
Because our classes were small (thank Goodness!) we always had time to chat a little bit afterward and I learned a lot with him, he also is a Vata type of person, so he explained me how our joints react to the Fall, a Vata type season, how we react the cold the way we do, how we tend to stay at home or prefer to be at home more than other types, he literally lightened up  my curiosity about this ancient knowledge and medicine called Ayurveda. :)

At the end, and even finishing to write down this post today,  I look back and I am forced to conclude that Life always provided me with the right persons in the right moments of my stay in this world. There is nothing random in the Universe, although we may think otherwise, there is nothing out of phase. There is a motive, a Divine reason, for everything that happens in our lives. Even those who makes feel bad or don't treat us right or exclude us, even those are teaching us something with their attitudes. And we are teaching them, even though, most of the times, unconsciously.

Life is a learning process in all of its aspects or ways, the best we can do to ourselves is to be open to learn, without any fears.
Thank you, ALL, for everything that I could learn with you. 
Thank you for your dedication to teach!

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