Boy, it’s been a long time coming. I have felt like a fish out of water, teaching Yoga in College Station, Texas, for as long as I can remember. As I wrote in a blog post last summer, I felt like I’d been living on the island of misfit toys. For so long, I have dreamt of having a Freedom Style tribe; people who are into practicing and living a guided-from-within life, not people who come to my class because it’s the one on the schedule at 6:00 at the gym or the studio. I have struggled and cried buckets of tears and wondered if I had misheard my calling. I mean, where are the people who really want to live this stuff, not just perfect their dog pose or stand on their head as a measure of “yoga success?” WHO CARES about that?! I sure don’t.
For a very long time, I was the lone yoga teacher here in my town. There were no studios here when I first started out. In fact, I taught at a gym, then ran my classes out of a church. Somehow, I thought I would attain success as a teacher if I ended up at a big, beautiful studio, with 30 or 40 people in my class. As I continued down my journey as a teacher, I began to realize that my teaching – though it was all I knew and quite normal for me – was definitely not the norm. The way that I practice, teach, and live Yoga doesn’t fit into the generally accepted notion that yoga is a physical exercise, a workout, all about pushing edges, “building heat,” holding poses for as long as the teacher says, with instruction after instruction, vinyasa after vinyasa, yoga selfie after yoga selfie. Ugh.
I remember teaching classes at two new studios recently, filled with the shiny hope of finally finding my people, my tribe, my kindred that I have so longed to find…only to discover that people at large studios aren’t interested in what I have to offer. I recall many times during my classes discussions on what Yoga is about, seeing people looking at their watches, wondering when we were going to get to the “real yoga.” I’ll never forget looking up during the meditation at the beginning of class one day to see a lady doing arm balances on the back row. God, where are my people?! My tribe?! Asana (the yoga poses) is such a tiny, miniscule, microscopic part of what Yoga is about. Why are people so focused on asana?? I just don’t get it.
I think I would either be insane or I would have quit teaching altogether if it weren’t for my saving grace: a place called the Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana. Talk about tribe, this is tribe in the deepest sense of the word, for me. Every July for one week, 30-40 Freedom Style yogis gather together to discuss, meditate, and do freefom yoga together, led by my teacher, Freedom Style colleage, and sweet soul friend Erich Schiffmann. When I get to the ranch, I breathe a massive sign of relief because I am home. Everyone there gets it, they get me, and we all get each other. It’s like family. I’ve wondered all these years why I can’t find this sort of tribe in my hometown?
Finally, last spring, The Universe did for me what I couldn’t do for myself and I was gratefully plucked out of the studio environment, altogether. As they say, when a door closes, a window always opens. Turns out, a friend of mine decided to lease a small studio space in the back of a large house, which she has called Westward MindBody Works. It’s a light-filled breath of simplicity. I’m back to running all of my own classes again, and, much to my complete shock and surprise, I have finally found my tribe! I’ve learned that it was never in big classes at a fancy studio. It’s in a small, intimate environment of 10 students at a time, where I can get to know everyone and they can get to know me. I’m blown away by the people who truly grace me with their presence: profound seekers who want to discuss Yoga with a Capital Y, people who want to explore bhakti yoga – chanting, spiritual dance, working with mandalas – and people who want to live the Yoga on a daily basis. Finally, I’m home!! I feel like I’ve been in the desert for a long time and I’ve found my way to the oasis, taking a cool, long, much needed drink. Man, does it ever feel so nourishing and healing.
Jai, Freedom Tribe! Thank you, Universe. It’s been a long time coming and I am so, incredibly grateful. Gratefully FULL.