Just this past week,I had the chance to visit with three amazing people. They were once yoga students where I teach, but they have since moved on to new adventures and to new places. We no longer share our practice in a physical sense; but somehow, it seems there is still a thread that holds us together. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so. To get all metaphysical on you, it is part of universal design.
The yoga sutras – what the heck are they anyways? And just how am I going to tie this all together? Well, with a thread of course. The word sutra means “a thread”. Patanjali wrote these sutra’s or terse thoughts as a guidance system for getting through life while keeping your peace. One of these sutra’s is Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah: “steady practice with non-attachment will stop the mind from fluctuating.” It’s a very advisable notion, usually advised in relationship to our bodies, our youth and our abilities. To not be attached to your looks, as they will change. To not be attached to your body, as it will change. To not be attached to your abilities, as they will change. Getting the idea, right? Things will change. I understand this sutra very well. However, I never saw it coming as a lesson for me to not get attached to my students.
Over my 12 years of teaching, I have met so many wonderful people. We became connected by this invisible thread of sharing something in common. At its simplest, we share a human body, then we share space, then breath, then a yoga practice.Then we share success, disappointments, laughter. If you have practiced long enough to no longer look at yoga as a short-term option, you seem to become bonded in a different way. You start to realize, because of your respect and dedication to the practice, you are now connected to everyone else that is dedicating themselves no matter their geography, abilities or beliefs. There will always be that one thread that will tie you to the next person. All it takes is having one thing in common. Then on our mats, we start to see that we have more things in common. Some of the students are mothers, some are runners, cancer survivors, college graduates and some are musicians. Each thing we have in common becomes an additional thread that is connecting us. Some find common ground in that there are other people in the room that have been in auto accidents and have neck issues. Some find connection in their hamstrings being so darn tight, or their backbends being so blissful. These threads become exposed by sharing an hour and a half a couple of times a week and by looking for things that unite us instead of divide us.
But division may occur and probably should. Isn’t division the underlying root to science – things coming together and then dividing, splitting. So it’s going to happen. Laws of nature sometimes are easy to over look. There is this ebb and flow present in student attendance: some are coming, some are going. The ebb and flow exist across the board in yoga study. Sometimes our practice is easy, sometimes hard, or sometimes we can get to the mat 6 days a week and sometimes only once. If we could all just relax with the natural occurrence of ebb and flow, we would begin to feel more buoyant. It’s like the advice they give you in getting out of a rip current – don’t fight the pull of the current, let it take you. Save your energy and it will spit you out eventually, then swim with the current towards the shore.
So through the years, I have gained students and lost students. But, I didn’t realize the impact they were having on me until they were gone and I missed sharing my yoga space with them. Why? Because I had become attached. Attached to the comfort I feel teaching to a roomful a familiar faces. I have always felt I am at my best when I look out and recognize 80% of the people looking back at me and I know their names and maybe even a few things about them. This makes it personal for me. I feel like I can give a better class when I see more of those threads connecting us . My least favorite classes are a room full of strangers. But if I settle in and do my job, that to will soon change. I’ll learn their names and find out some of their passions and we’ll start tying our threads together. Once a connection has been made, geography won’t separate us. Especially not in our era of technology.
So even though I have lost many wonderful yoga students/friends, I still feel that we are connected. Which is why it’s so nice to catch up with them every now and then. I haven’t managed to stay in touch with all the students that have moved on, but somehow I know that if I have done my job well that when they roll out their mat in New York or Wyoming or the Netherlands, they will probably experience the same nostalgic feeling I do sometimes when I roll out my mat and think about all the great people I have met through yoga.
I think its ok to get attached, as long as I am prepared for the separation, and I don’t let it disturb my peace. Usually it doesn’t. It’s usually a heartfelt gratitude towards them for letting me share my love of yoga with them. The ebb and flow of the student population will always change. I have befriended so many wonderful people and they have fanned out all over the world. They have taught me as many things as I was trying to teach them with yoga. We grow together in the yoga studio, even if we move apart. I’m always sad when one of them leaves, but if I’ve done my job, then the thread of a good dedicated yoga practice, no matter where they are, will be the thread that holds us together.