I woke up yesterday morning like many of the people in my community: scared, angry, confused, frustrated.
I teach 2 yoga classes on Wednesdays back to back. People that come to my class describe them as “joyful” and “fun”. Yoga can be serious in many ways, but we can also laugh and share in our vulnerability in the space. I wasn’t personally feeling joyful or fun yesterday. Teaching classes the way I usually do with lightness and jokes and inclusiveness felt hard.
I walked into the studio wondering “how was I going to face the people who come to my class today?” All of the sudden it felt like a big responsibility to be the yoga teacher holding space for such a monumental moment.
I looked at the options:
I could speak directly to what was happening, continuing the heightened levels of anxiety and stress surrounding the election. But that felt wrong in my body. Knowing that people come to class not to escape life but to help manage better.
I could totally spiritual bypass this shit and say we are ok, and to love all beings and choose to be happy even though your heart is breaking. I could make jokes to distract people. This also felt false and like bullshit and totally insensitive.
So I came into the space without a plan. Not knowing how I would act or what I would say. And I allowed the community that entered to help inform me how to hold the space.
There is this intuition and “spidey-sense” that hopefully we can tap into as teachers, community leaders, etc. which can allow us to listen to the people around us to know what to do. All while still acknowledging our own feelings and process. At least to do our best.
The mood of the classes was much like a funeral. People were just quiet. Stunned. I don’t remember exactly what I said in class, but it was something along the lines of holding space for one another right now to feel what we are feeling, to offer kindness to our neighbors and loved ones, to get close. This felt right I guess. Because it wasn’t denying reality, but it wasn’t feeding into the anxiety, it was something different. It was to offer comfort when things get tough. Sometimes that is the only thing we have control over. Using tools. Self regulation, grounding, trying to remain calm even when things get hard. And this is the off-the-mat yoga stuff that gets me jazzed and hopeful and inspired.
I don’t know if that is the “right” thing. Or what people needed or wanted. I wonder how other practitioners of healing arts are approaching this. If you have any thoughts please share!
Either way, I know I did the best I could in a situation I’ve never been in. A responsibility that was new. I offered the folks in the room lots of love and respect. Many left my classes crying in savasana. My hope is that yoga can provide relief and healing to our bodies and hearts through challenging times. I know it has for me in a personal big way. And this is why I teach.
Photo: Tim Navis Photography