Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Never say another mean thing to yourself

i go to this sweet wednesday morning yoga class. it's tiny, usually just three or four of us -- and no, i'm not going to say where, 'cause i don't necessarily want to share. our teacher is terrific: wacky and funny and curious and talented and honest. she's just what you want on a wednesday morning.

i'm quite surprised to groove on this class, because it's very casual. make that extremely casual. and i'm not just saying that because i came up through iyengar yoga, a tradition based on nit-picking exactitude and dead seriousness. iyengar is yoga for protestants, perfectionists' yoga: if you're not being constantly corrected, you're just not doing it right. i first checked out chantelle's class because what's a sabbatical for if not taking yoga on weekday mornings? plus, being near zocalo and the italian centre, it would provide a built-in alibi for any consumer splurges. i didn't really know what a vinyasa class would be like, but i figured it would be self-improving to learn. when i found out vinyasa means flow, i almost fled. BKS and Gita definitely do not approve of "flowing." the next surprise was music. yoga to music? and we're not talking ShantiOm sitar-and-tabla covers, either: chantelle blasts dave matthews, ruthie foster, vintage U2, and colbie caillat.

there's always a lot of laughing in chantelle's classes, a certain amount of chitchat/catching up, as much ranting as necessary, and i usually get teased for analyzing everything. above all, there's a lot of learning. there's something about the immediacy and forthrightness of our time together that means we tackle our questions directly, whether they're about the optimal positioning of your shoulders in a dolphin plank, the name of a given muscle in the rotator cuff or the pronunciation of a sanskrit word. there's no singular agenda, and so we all teach and learn together. it's the paulo freire ideal, in action.

if you've read my earlier comments on yoga, you'll know that i'm not much on the non-physical bits. so when chantelle came back from a workshop with rolf gates and brought his book meditations from the mat into the class, i was nonplussed. turns out, rolf has smart things to say. i don't mind rolf. but what i really love is chantelle herself. at the end of last week's class, she said to us, during sivasana, "never say another mean thing to yourself." the fact of it was shocking enough: it's a terribly intimate thing to say to a collection of women. but the idea behind it is so shockingly revolutionary that it's had me thinking all week. what would that mean, to make a commitment not to say mean things to yourself? how telling is it that my first reaction is, but what will we -- my selves -- talk about, then? could you think mean things about yourself, and just not say them? if you stopped being mean to yourself, could you still be mean to other people? and how long is "never," anyway? what if you started by not saying anything mean to yourself for, say, a week. uh oh: what if you did start that way? far from being the end of a conversation, it might just be the beginning.

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Casey said...
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