My studio reopened this last week, after ten weeks of being shut down due to the Covid-19 Crisis.
I walked through the doors, the first time in ten weeks, the first time after graduating from my 500 hour yoga instructor certification program, on Monday morning at 5:30 a.m., the time the instructor guiding the 6:00 a.m. practice would be there to unlock the doors. I also went back for the 4:00 p.m. practice, and again at 6:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m., and 5:15 the day after. My schedule has been close to that unless I myself was teaching elsewhere. Show up, grab a spot six feet away from my fellow yogis, and just inhale, exhale and breathe.
I can remember during that first practice back, after ten weeks of taking practice on my mat at home thanks to my fellow instructors generosity in posting free practices online, looking down at my abs at about halfway through the core warm ups: for the first time in ten weeks, my abdomen was covered in sweat. About forty minutes into that first practice, I had to pause; I was growing light headed. Not surprising, because my body had lost its familiarity with taking a practice in 96 degrees.
The surprising part of this week? The amount of comments and compliments I received about my body. One instructor even jokingly called me about, referring to the abs I’d gained during the ten weeks I and my loved ones were all sheltering away from one another. Friends and colleagues I haven’t seen since March 15 all commented on how tiny I was, how much progress I’ve made, how I’ve taken my health journey to a new level, how I clearly used my time in lock-down wisely.
The spiritual practice of Brahmacharya, Moderation, is one I’ve never been good at. We’ll circle through the yamas and niyamas at my primary practice studio, and I focus on them each week with my own students. Each week, I gain some new insight, new way of looking at my life and my own path and journey through this world of ours, doing my best to adhere to the mindset that accompanies each one. I grown, I shift, I evolved into (hopefully) a better version of myself with each new week, each new spiritual practice.
Yet Brahmacharya is where I need the most work. I’ve never not gone 150% in anything I’ve done in life; while that’s beneficial in terms of education and employment, in other areas, it tends to lead to burning myself out.
Ten weeks ago, the night before I began my last weekend of teacher training, I spoke with my fellow yogis and instructors. We talked about how people were over reacting: shelves were bare at the stores, the chance of getting toilet paper was slim. I can remember going to the grocery store, and arching an eyebrow when I realized that most of what was left on the shelves was healthy food: shouldn’t people be stocking up on healthy foods, not junk, when a virus was going on that had a high contagion rate?
It was talked about repeatedly during my final teacher training module. I graduated, received my certification, cried, hugged my instructors and my fellow teacher trainees, took photos, went to the restaurant where I was having my graduation party. Yet, most of the people who had said they were attending changed their RSVP to “not attending” and sent their regards. They were too nervous with the pandemic.
The day after graduation, I grabbed my change of clothes, my gym bag, and got in my car. Halfway to the studio, the instructor scheduled to guide the practice messaged me, telling me the owners had chosen to shut the studio down for the better of our community. More than half of the classes I taught were cancelled; one week later, the rest of our county shut down under Governor Abbott’s orders.
I spent the first few days of the week after I graduated cleaning my house. Within that first week, several instructors at my studio began posting online classes for free. I did the same for the students I had at the apartment communities I’ve been teaching in for almost two years.
I spent from April 2019 until March 2020 swearing that when I graduated my 500 hour program I’d slow it down. I’d stop rushing through my life, stop scheduling every minute, take advantage of the opportunity to slow down, breathe, catch up with my loved ones who had supported me through a year of non stop work and study.
I had no idea that it wouldn’t be a choice.
During the ten weeks of quarantine, I took 109 practices. 77 days of being locked down, and I took 109 yoga practices. A year ago, I had completed 105. Yet my first practice back at the studio was my 191st practice of the year.
Moderation, my ass.
See, it was either throw myself into my yoga practice or have to realize that life as I knew it had radically been shifted and changed into something I wasn’t okay with. I wasn’t okay with being forced to be at home, away from my chosen family, away from my spiritual home, away from my students. I was still teaching, but I was doing so on a camera. While I was grateful I could still teach in one way or another, still, it felt like I was screaming into a void; there was no way to judge the reactions of my students, no way to see their progress, no way to be there for them.
So, I did what I’ve done the last two and a half years when shit hit the fan and started splattering: I stepped on my mat, I studied once I found an online personal trainer certification program that should have taken me ten weeks to complete. I blew through it in five weeks and scored high on the final exam. I cranked out artwork, worked on creative writing projects of my own and went back to publishing.
I was grateful for the extra time spent with my kids, with those in my life I sheltered with. For the weekly video calls with friends to talk, to drink wine, to watch a movie.
Yet, I couldn’t just be. Couldn’t just sit in my own space. So I did what I always do: threw myself 150% at everything and anything I could, just to keep moving, just to keep my head clear, to not go to a dark place that is so very easy for me to go to when things have shifted from the plan.
So I kept at it. Kept practicing, kept offering free yoga classes to those in need, kept studying, kept editing and formatting and writing. I’d get done with one yoga practice that a fellow instructor had posted, scroll through their timeline on Facebook, and click play on a practice from the day or week before.
Used to, shit would hit the fan, and you could find me on a bar stool, looking for vodka clarity. Now, I’m on the mat.
Is one better than the other? Yeah, I get it, too much alcohol is going to do a number on my liver and potentially inspire it to leap from my body saying “fuck this shit…”. Yet, is it really any different at its core that when the shit hit the fan I spent most of my time on my mat searching for yoga clarity? Is it really any different at its core that I slammed my way through a ten week online personal trainer certification program in five weeks? That in one way or another, I lean on a crutch that keeps me from facing down that which is out of my comfort level.
But it’s all I know to do.
Be good to yourself, and to others,