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Our Teachers in Training share their insights with the YogaSport community.

by Sarah Oates

It was a weekday like any other, and I was heading home from yoga class, sweaty yet refreshed. I pulled into my parking garage, hopped on the elevator, and instinctively reached out to catch the door for a fellow neighbor. I couldn’t remember his name, but I recognized him right away – though our paths hadn’t crossed in months. He was one of the first people I met upon moving into my loft. Over the course of my 5-year stint as a homeowner, I’ve found it difficult to become well acquainted with any of my seemingly transient neighbors, beyond a nod of recognition in the hallways or sharing smiles and a bout of awkward silence in the elevator. I’ll confess I consider myself a relatively quiet and introverted person, and that may have something to do with my lacking a sense of community. I’ve never been averse to meeting new people, but I’m always afraid that my reservations in social settings project an image of someone who is uninterested or indifferent to knowing others.

I’m not sure if the various challenges presented by teacher training (along with the self-introspection I’ve been tackling this summer) have anything to do with it, but… Lately I’ve noticed more people spontaneously approaching me and striking up conversation in the public arena. This evening turned out to be no exception. My neighbor, who is almost always in a hurry, suddenly started asking me questions about yoga. We stepped off the elevator and soon found ourselves caught up in a 20-minute conversation about exercise, physical therapy, jobs, various aspects of our daily routine, and the nuances of living in a fish bowl. I say this because we just happened to have picked units that directly face each other on the 5th floor, across the courtyard of our u-shaped brick building. You would think this would make for a potentially uncomfortable exchange, as it’s difficult to avoid spying on your neighbor when your only view consists of a wall of 20-foot windows. But we were able to laugh about the fact that I could tell exactly which P90X video he was working out to, and that he was well aware that I spend excessive amounts of hours pacing around my kitchen. Despite the fact that we were virtually strangers sharing that confined space for a matter of minutes, on that particular day we were able to skip the social niceties, drop our guard, and connect as human beings.

There are so many instances in day-to-day life when I notice myself and those around me simply going through the motions prescribed to us. Human beings weren’t necessarily designed to sit at a desk or stand at a cash register for 8 hours every day, yet each of us has our daily routine to which we commit and become accustomed. In the same sense, we have our set group of family and friends. We are typically happy to be confined to specific communities and subscribe to a limited range of activities in which we feel most comfortable and safe. It can be surprisingly easy to reconcile ourselves to this repetition and sameness over the course of many months, sometimes years… to the point where we can become numb to each other, as we are practically living on auto-pilot. We swim circles around the fish bowl of life, seeing each other without really seeing each other and actively acknowledging that connection we all have.

If I do not make a conscious effort to be present in my moving meditation, I find I can experience the same sort of autopilot on my yoga mat. It’s a delicate balance to learn to switch off your brain and trust your body’s intuition yet not allow your physical or mental conditioning to take over. In other words, just because you can flow with your eyes closed doesn’t mean you should (at least not figuratively). In truth, I continue to explore many of the same Asanas on a daily basis. Yet when I am truly present in my body, my practice is anything but routine. When I make a point to genuinely push my growing edge, I am building strength in balance, discovering greater length twists, and creating new space in both body and mind. For me, yoga has been an amazing catalyst for change and growth. It inspires me to seek similar evolution off the mat through embracing new experiences and striving to connect with others on a daily basis.