lessons beyond the Y

Like many lunch hours, I spent my time today at the Downtown YMCA in yoga class. It was my teacher’s last day. And as I bent, twisted, and bound, I thought about all he’s taught me over the past five years I’ve participated in the class.

Make it your own practice

These are the words he says to anyone who lays a mat down in his class. It’s also a reminder to those who have taken the class for years. We’re all at a different level, so do what you can, take breaks when you need to. Make it your own practice.

Move in alignment

I feel him adjust my body in triangle. He stacks my upper body in alignment with my lower. We can all try to strike the right balance–between work and home, discipline and fun–but sometime we need someone to help with a little adjustment. Move in alignment.

Breath, then go a little further

In class, these words make me think about–and feel–my hamstrings. Bend over, wrap your index finger around your big toes, take a deep breath, and feel your hamstrings stretch until they can’t extend any more. Can you go further? Absolutely. Outside of class, these words help when confronted with a perceived impasse. Breath, then go a little further.

Everyone has a gift to give

One day he started class with an announcement. He reminded us that he comes to class whenever possible, but sometimes he just can’t. Obviously, in those instances, he has to get a substitute. But his short list of subs told him it’s not much fun teaching this class because we all lament the fact he isn’t there. Be mindful, he told us. These people have something to teach you. Everyone has a gift to give.

You’ll never get there unless you start with the first 

Sitting down, pull your knees up to your chest, cross your ankles and lift your body off the floor. Are you kidding me? I look at him and laugh. Maybe others in the class do this too because clearly this move is impossible. Well, maybe. Maybe not. It may take 1000 tries, he says. You’ll never get there unless you start with the first.

Lead with your heart

Stand up straight, clasp your elbows behind your back, breath in and push your heart out front. Now bend over. Lead with your heart. Lead with your heart. That is the last time you will hear me say that, he said.

Thank you, Charlie. Thank you for leading with your heart.

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