Like most people who come to yoga, I was first drawn to what I needed least from a yoga practice.
Too much heat and intensity for my already intense personality burnt me out quickly. So I stopped going.
Manifesto – a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization (or in this case yoga teacher).
Eventually I found what I really need from a yoga practice – kindness.
You may be scratching your head wondering what the hell kindness has to do with stretching and contorting your body into funny shapes.
As it turns out, a lot.
Let me explain.
When I first started taking classes with Michelle at It’s All Yoga (Sacramento), I was struck by her warmth and friendliness. She’d always greet me with a hug – and by hug I mean a full body embrace (she gives the best hugs)– and welcome me to class like we were long-lost best friends.
Then before we’d begin class, Michelle would remind us to work somewhere between effort and ease. She’d invite us to explore how we felt in our bodies in the different poses and listen to what we needed to feel good in that moment.
Admittedly, at first I thought this was crazy talk.
Why would I come to yoga class and not do my best poses?
Why wouldn’t I push myself harder than I had the day before?
How would I ever get better at yoga?
In these early days with Michelle, she’d walk by my mat and lovingly put her hand on my shoulder and say “For you my friend, 70 percent.”
I tried to do what she said, but it felt so foreign.
Who was this person that didn’t want to see the best that I had to offer?
Didn’t she see that I could do more?
What did she know that I didn’t?
Over time, what I learned from Michelle is that yoga isn’t a performance.
It’s isn’t a competition – even with yourself.
That what you could do yesterday doesn’t really matter. Every time you do a pose it’s different because this moment is different from the last.
The only thing that really matters is the now.
Michelle’s kind reminders of “70 percent” were exactly what I needed to hear. I needed someone to teach me to be kinder to myself.
As it turns out, being kinder to myself is my yoga.
Michelle’s kindness is one of the reasons I’ve decided I want to teach yoga. I hope to touch the hearts of other people the way she has touched mine.