A Beautiful Disaster
In my always-in-flux, ever-changing schedule, I have exactly two constants: an 11:30am yoga class that I teach on Tuesday mornings, and a 6:45am yoga class that I teach on Thursday mornings. Both are hot vinyasa sequences. And I find it a little ironic that this, once my least favorite practice, has now become the anchor of my weeks.
Recently, I had a student ask me after class: I feel like I am always slipping around on my mat- what can I do to avoid that? Do I use a towel, or not? Do I need a better down dog? I smiled a little to myself before I answered her.
My first introduction to yoga was through the Bikram sequence. Disciplined, rigid, and more static than other styles, I was immediately drawn to all of the structure. I loved how nice and neat everything was. I loved that you were instructed to “step into your sweaty footprint” to assume the second set of a posture. I would carefully square my mat to the mirror and line up the edges of my perfectly-sized hot yoga towel just so. I would adjust my waistband and my sports bra and even my ponytail to all be perfectly even. Perfectionists LOVE hot yoga for all of these reasons.
Then I was introduced to the (non-heated) vinyasa practice after- oops- signing up for teacher training in vinyasa J I grew to love the dynamic movement from pose to pose, the feeling of sending my body through space on the rise and fall of my breath.
But there was this another animal, this hot vinyasa, that I absolutely dreaded. When I started class, I couldn’t use a towel under my hands, because it was too slippery. I had no traction in down dog. Plus when I stepped through, the towel would get all screwed up under my feet. Then, partway through the practice, I was sliding all over the place, and the towel became a necessity, although the stepping-through mussing of the towel was still a problem. Plus I didn’t like the idea of putting my feet on a towel where my face was going to be later on in class. So then there was readjusting my jump forward in a sun salutation. My clothes were always a disaster, alternately clinging to me with sweat and hiking up or down as I swung a leg up or cartwheeled my hands down to the floor. I’m not even going to get into what my hair looks like at the end of a practice.
So I would go to hot vinyasa, and I would spend the entire hour preoccupied with trying to make it all work. Maybe if I had more core strength I wouldn’t mess up my towel when I stepped through. Maybe once my hips were more open a Warrior 1 wouldn’t give me a wedgie. Or whatever. I was aggravated all the time and felt like I was just shy of finding the key that would unlock the secret world of an elegant, graceful, clean practice.
I’m not sure how it happened exactly. But one day, I realized I had to stop searching. Hot vinyasa is a messy practice. That’s the first word I would use to describe it. I was exactly right- sometimes I needed a towel and sometimes I didn’t. My sweat made the wrong things sticky and the wrong things slick. I always felt like something of a disaster on the mat. And that’s exactly what made it so beautiful.
It’s become one of my favorite classes to take, in part because I think it is so reflective of what real life feels like. There is grace and elegance inside of the calamity, or maybe the calamity in fact IS the grace and elegance of it all. So when this student asked me what to do, searching for the right answer, I’m not sure I told her what she wanted to hear. “It’s messy,” I said. “The best thing you can do is just let it be that way.”