What I Really Learned

It’s official.

I am now Georgie Abel, RYT 200.

I have learned so much.

It’s funny though, how yoga is, because when you’re learning about asana and pranayama and anatomy and how to meditate and where to sequence inversions during a class and how to help someone get deeper into their triangle pose…you really aren’t learning about any of this at all. Yes, I have come away with fairly extensive knowledge of the body and how to teach a yoga class, but what I really learned was much more important than that.

I learned about myself, the people around me. I learned about this life.

I took the evening hot flow class last week, a class I hadn’t taken since the beginning of this training. I kept on remembering how it felt to take that class 7 or 8 months ago, as compared to now.

I am different.

On the most physical of levels, I am stronger. Asana is still challenging for me but there is a sense of ease that comes along with even the most taxing of poses. There are, of course, hundreds of poses I still cannot do. And that’s alright. I am more flexible. I know what muscles to engage, where to relax. I can stay calm in navasana.

I know far more, infinitely more about asana now than I did 8 months ago. But what I really learned was how to let go of the physical body. The body is just like a box with holes cut out so what’s inside can see into the world. Bodies don’t do anything except give the mind, the thing that really matters, information. In a culture where we are obsessed with physical stuff, this was a hard lesson to learn.

Asana taught me that the physical body is just how we express our existence, our means of transportation.

I learned how to breathe. Pranayama. I love that word and I love practicing it. I know how each of the different pranayama practices affect the physical and mental body. I know which one to do when I feel stressed, or when I feel tired, or when my allergies are acting up. I practice nadi sodhana (http://www.holistic-online.com/yoga/hol_yoga_breathing-ex-nadisodh.htmwhen I’m driving. Maybe not best to operate heavy machinery while under the influence of pranayama, but I’ve been just fine so far.

But what I really learned was that there is something beyond the science of breathing that is sacred. I realized that there is something behind the breath, behind prana, that is giving it power and life. Breath gives everything life, but what gives life to the breath?

Breathing bridges the gap between my small life and the other, sometimes hard to reach, Big Life.

Anatomy and physiology is something that has always been near and dear to my heart. I love the concreteness of being able to call a bone by its name, of being able to give my students information about the muscle that is being strengthened or lengthened in a certain pose. I like being able to label the parts of a body–how refreshing in the sometimes otherwise “woowoo” world of yoga.

But what I really learned was actually, pretty damn woowoo. In this moment, all of the stuff going on in my body and yours is for the most part, involuntary. And much like what I learned about breathing, science can only explain this to an extent. The science of anatomy and physiology does in fact take it very far, but there is a missing piece–at the end of this chain of explanation. What is behind the skin, the muscles, the connective tissue, the organs, the bones, the chemicals, the hormones, the blood, the cells, the nuclei of the cells, the atoms. It can’t just stop there. What’s behind what we’re made up of?

There is divinity in the most physical parts of what we’re made of.

When we learned about meditation, and as I’ve been practicing it more and more, I have come to realize that for the past twenty-two years I’ve been talking a lot of shit to myself. My internal dialogue is that of a bitchy girl in high school. Why can’t you just sit here Georgie? There is something wrong with you. No, you don’t need to scratch that itch on your arm, and if you do, you have failed miserably and you shouldn’t even call yourself a yoga teacher. You’re a fraud. How can you call yourself a yogini, let alone a teacher of yoga, if you still sometimes get in bad moods and make people around you feel shitty and you’ve only read the Yoga Sutras once and sometimes you get drunk? You still use the word mother fucker. You. Fucking. Suck. Get off of this mat right now, you little biotch. 

And that was on a good day.

What I really learned was that I’ve been a complete bitch to myself.

Every weekend that we met for training we would do a “check-in circle” where we all went around and said how our months have been going, how our yoga is going, how our lives are going. I think that this is what I learned the most from. Everyone, every month, had something going on. For some reason this surprised me. That something might be good, might be bad, and sometimes it was really bad. Life goes up, down, stays up or stays down, but it always changes.

What I really learned is that at some point or another, everyone is going through shit. Sometimes it’s really bad shit. Be compassionate. We all need it.

I learned that sometimes I think I’m the shit, sometimes I think I’m not worth shit. Sometimes I make other people feel like the shit, but other times I make them feel like shit too. I’ve become aware of when I’m doing these things.

I learned that it’s hard for me to let go of being the leader in situation.

I learned how to forgive, and that forgiving never gets easier.

I learned to sit with feelings of despair and suffering. Not to push them away or try to act like I’m happy, but to really sit with them, to marinate in them. This makes me feel human, this makes me feel alive and connected to the Big Stuff. As shitty as it may feel, suffering is a great spiritual tool.

I learned that I am a huge brat to the people who I love sometimes. Why is it that it’s easier to treat strangers better than our loved ones?

I learned that yoga is for the brave. There’s no running from yourself when it’s just you and your mat. I admire everyone who practices because of that.

I learned that anything in life can be used as a tool for transformation. It doesn’t have to be something as convenient as a yoga teacher training. Every day, every moment can be used as a journey or quest for whatever you may need. Use cooking dinner, taking a hike, talking with your mom on the phone, and drinking a cup of tea as mini-journeys for self-discovery. If that’s what you need.

At the end of the day, I am just really grateful now. For all of it. But especially to the other girls who did this training with me. Talk about support, encouragement, inspiration–each one of them gave me a little something different, but equally important. Every one of those girls will always hold a very special place in my heart.

And of course, to all of my teachers along the way–especially Steve Black and Kelley Boyd. I cannot thank you enough.

Thank you to all of the readers of this blog. It means so much to me that you are interested in what I think and have supported me in your own way. Thank you so so much.

I learned more than I could ever write down in words. And even with all that I do know now, I also realize that there is infinitely more for me to learn and experience.

What I really learned is that I don’t know nothing but I don’t know everything.

This makes me happy.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kelley J. Boyd
    May 27, 2011 @ 08:14:04

    Jai Jnana Yoga!


  2. Anne Evans
    May 27, 2011 @ 11:48:17

    Dear Georgie
    I am so inspired by your blog offering. Isn’t it crazy to think that even though I am over thirty-five years older than you are, I can completely relate to and understand and empathize with everything you have written about here?

    Congratulations on completing your teacher training. It would be such a wonderful thing if one day I could be a student in one of your classes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and giving me such a lift today. I love you dearly,


  3. Georgie Abel
    May 27, 2011 @ 14:56:47

    Thanks Aunt Amps. I love you too.


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