Peace on the Mat
If you ask 10 yogis what makes a yoga class “good”, you will probably get 10 different answers: the teacher, the music, the studio, the style, the energy in the room, etc. While all of these external factors can contribute to my experience, I judge a yoga class based on internal factors. Did something shift for me during class? Do I feel infinitely better now than I did at the beginning of class? Did I have a deep release, and maybe (in really great classes) even cried? Do all of my burdens seem lighter as I walk out of the studio?
These experiences happen when I let myself surrender. When I stop paying attention to what the person in front of me is doing. When I become fully present within myself. When my own breath leads my own movements. When I stop judging.
I can reach this place in a Yin class when I am holding poses for so long that all of the connective tissue that is rigidly holding me in place loosens its grip, or in a hot, sweaty Vinyasa flow class that wrings me out from the deepest trenches of my core.
It is easier for me to reach this place in a class when I am familiar with a teacher, when I can sense what pose is coming next, not because I have done the sequence before, but because we have built up a connection. It is easier when the music is either something that I know and love, or something that remains quiet background noise. It is easier when I am so comfortable in the studio that I don’t pay attention to the color of the room or what is on the altar or what I can see from the windows.
While all of these external factors contribute to my experience, it truly is my experience, and I am the one who ultimately determines how I will walk out of a yoga class.
During a yoga retreat with Rolf Gates a couple of years ago, he continually used the phrase “move from thinking to feeling.” This is what I am talking about. Getting out of my head, calming my monkey mind and stopping the incessant chatter and conversations that I have with me, myself and I. Turning inward and letting go of everything else in the world.
For me, the perfect yoga class is when I can find enough peace within my head and my heart that I can just be me.