As I sat there, slightly uncomfortable in the yoga class, I noticed that I was aware of my narrative. And it--my narrator--was frightened. I know it was frightened because it stopped for a brief brief second.
Yoga has been a salvation in many ways, but the best lesson is being able to separate the narrative from me. And you do this quite simply by observing and forgetting who you think you are, whatever that means, and observing everything around you. Your breathing, your narrator, your little pains, but not let them encompass your being there. It has not been that easy.
Like any healthy man I thought I could conquer yoga relatively quickly. I am active and strong, so I thought it would be a mater of practice. This attitude worked well for me going to beginner classes for six months. Until I went to the wrong class. That is when I realized that there is more to yoga than just strength or willfulness, there has to be release.
I am an early riser, so I decided to go to the dawn class at my regular yoga place. I must have misread the level because by the time I got settled into the class people were warming up doing one-hand stands and lotus position handstands. I should have known I was in deep dodo when the instructor came in looking like a scandinavian Bruce Lee and, with a distinctly German accent, introduced himself as Schroeder. Oh shit.
I looked around and the faces around me expressed blissful smiles and quiet anticipation. How bad can it be? It was a cool morning that only the affluent coastal regions can experience this late in the summer. So it was invigorating to start off with some allegro sun salutations. I quickly warmed up. The morning chill already a faint and distant memory.
I normally go to the beginner yoga. And although I feel accomplished and masterful in these classes, I did not realize that it was very gentle yoga that I mastered. My false sense of accomplishment was to be exposed. This wasn't gentle. The quick five sets of sun salutations quickly expired my repertoire of moves and energy. Standing in the tree pose I realized I had to be creative to survive. And that is what it was all about. I fucked up, got in the wrong class, and there is no way, no way I am going to give up and walk out to be the recipient of pitiful glances, glances I myself have punished others less competent. So I started sneaking a breath through my mouth. Like a whale gulping millions of plankton, I was stealing oxygen from the air through my mouth. This was war.
From tree position we did some downward facing dog. I normally do this for a few seconds and then go to the next position. Here, at first I thought I went deaf. No call to change. IAs much as I could through the film of perspiration clouding my eyes, I looked around and everyone was still in position. Shroeder comes around, reminding all of us that this potion is a relaxing position. My shoulder were burning with pain. Shroeder came closer. I tried to rotate my arms to alleviate the pain, but the pain just moved into my wrists. I was about to fall on my face when everyone came up into warrior one. I must have gone deaf. The bussing in my ear only more disconcerting than the pain that was moving like a pinball machine up and down my arms, buzzing at the shoulder.
And then came pigeon. Anyone who runs, or cycles knows that the pigeon position, which is where you lie down with one of your legs crossed infront, and the other straight behind you, and then you fold yourself onto your front crossed leg--is like sticking a hot needle into your gluteus maximus. This is when Shreoder came to gently press on my back, which would now be a very comfortable release of energy, but then it was excruciating. Encouraging me, "good good that is kundalini breathing." he compliments. I could not reply, I had involuntary tears streaking down my inverted face and I think my lower limbs went numb and my hips burned with pain. I was breathing hard. This was not kundalini breathing I was whimpering and breathing hard trying not to pass out. My hips felt like they were on fire and the burning had singed my testicles. I prayed to god to release me. To send a lightening and frizzle me away. I wanted nothing to exist.
Coming out of pigeon, looking up towards the ceiling, trying to keep the tears from becoming a cry, I went into the same position for the other leg. For the next hour there was a lot of pain. But there was also an acknowledgment that I am going to survive.
By the time the 1 hour 15 minutes and 23 seconds passed, I could not walk properly, and there was a funny buzzing sound in my ears, but there was no pain, and for the first time no narration. That is when I learned that yoga is not about strength but about release. And the first thing to release is your narration.
So it comes as a surprise, that while visiting friends in Australia, staying with them--I normally do not stay with friends when I travel, since when we meet with with friends it is for an evening, or an event--I noticed that not only do other people have a narratives, but some vocalize theirs. Some do it when they drive. They narrate everything about what they are thinking. By now you, the reader, can appreciate how much I treasure my lesson with Shroeder. Being able to switch off my narration and releasing. So I have another lesson now, to release myself from other peoples' narrative.