Open letter to my students (and everyone else I see)

The people that come to my yoga classes are the shit. True story. Their willingness to be open, to be brave, to get close to their bones and dig deep within themselves is not a rarity. It happens in every class. And to someone who used to (and yes of course, still sometimes does) question and doubt the goodness and grittiness of people, this willingness about them always blows me away every time.

I already know that this is gonna be a super sappy, ooey-gooey kind of post so for all of you badass mofos who don like dat shit, my deepest apologies.

Last week, during one of my late night flow classes, I taught a partner yoga inspired classes.

Before class started, the room was fairly quiet. There was some soft chatter, the normal OhHiHowAreYou, GoodHowAreYou, the WhatPropsDoWeNeed, the MyLowerBackHurtsCanWeDoPigeon, the OhHiI’veNeverBeenHereBeforeMyNameIsLizzie. Normal stuff. Normal conversation, situations, and body language. Everyone claimed their space in the room with their mats, a yogis (somewhat unintended and subconscious) version of sticking a sign in the ground that says PRIVATELY OWNED LAND, NO TRESPASSING.

AND DON’T YOU DARE LET YOUR ARM COME ANYWHERE NEAR MY MAT DURING SUPINE TWISTS.

Okay okay so maybe we aren’t as weird about our personal space as I’m saying.

But maybe…we are.

I started off class with, Alright, everyone find a partner. They all just kind of looked at me and half smiled.

No, like really, get a partner, I said. Just turn to someone next to you and say what’s up, my name is blahdeblah. And eventually, everyone partnered up. They started talking, nervous-talking, but talking nonetheless. Quick hand shakes, HiI’mJulie, HiI’mMark, YeahI’veSeenYouHereBefore, OkayCoolNiceToMeetYou, YeahYouToo.

I had them sit back to back, breathe their own breath, feel the breath of their partner, and the warmth, support, energy, and movement coming from another being outside of themselves. They even sat on each other’s mats. And in yoga world, that’s like inviting someone into the room in your house that your Mom never let you go in when you were little. The room that is too fragile or delicate for someone else to even step inside of.

What I was asking my students to do was to invite this person, this stranger, into their inner most world. That’s a huge, incredible task to ask someone to do. But because my students and humans in general are so brave, every person in that yoga room sent out a silent invitation: Come on in.

We went through a series of partner yoga poses as a warm up, and then I had them on their own mats again for some solo-flow. But it didn’t feel solo. Not at all. People were breathing in unison with each other, loud, deep breaths, even louder if the sequence got more challenging. Supporting not only themselves, not only their partner, but everyone else in the room with their breath.

It was fucking magical.

For the hip and heart opening section of class, I had them come back to their partner for some seated poses. Laughter happened. DoesThisFeelGood? happened. YeahThat’sGood happened. YourBreathGotShorter,WantToComeOutOfThePose? happened.

Open hearts happened. Wide, vast, limitlessly open.

And then, the sweetest, most amazing, worthy-of-love-song-to-be-written-about-it (but this blog post will have to do) thing happened.

Savasana.

The usual, unspoken rules of savasana–keeping to your own mat and space–didn’t apply. Bodies were stretched out, wide open X shapes, on to mats that weren’t theirs, arms crossing over legs crossing over torsos over ankles, and wrists, smiles, shoulders, knees pressed against calves and toes, lots of toes.

Connection.

Real connection, not OhHiHowAreYou. Not the surface, but down in the depths. Not the apparent, but the true. Not the kitchen, but the room no one goes into.

And because I’m a Northern California softie and a complete sucker for anyone who finds a way to open their heart in a world that discourages it, I teared up while I sat at the front of the room as the students were in their new, touchy-feely version of savasana. I pulled it together before it was time to say our namastes, but almost lost it again when the hand shakes and I’mWellThankYou-s that happened at the beginning of class turned into 30-second long hugs and ThankYouSoMuchForBeingMyPartner-s.

And the coolest part about this whole thing is that I didn’t do anything. I was so not responsible for the outcome of that class, it was entirely the people in there. I see a yoga teacher’s job as someone who creates and holds a space for people to do their own work. I can keep them safe, make them laugh, suggest some cool poses and remind them to breathe, but when it comes down to it, I ain’t doing shit. It’s all the students. They do the work and and are therefore responsible for any goodness that comes out of yoga. I truly believe this: what you get out of a yoga class is 95% the student, 5% the instructor. And in that 5%, it’s usually the instructor doing something wacko and making the experience negative. So many teachers, myself included sometimes I’m sure, have their own agenda and forget to shut the hell up and let the students do their work.

All yoga goodness comes from the person doing the practice.

I needed to see that happen. I needed to witness the process of someone opening up, even with all of their hurts and heartache that I’m sure they have. What a valuable, gentle reminder that being hurt or having been hurt in the past isn’t a good enough excuse anymore to be closed. Because really, we’ve all been hurt. We are all hurting, in some big or small way, right now. In this very moment. It’s not like the people who come to my classes are a rare breed (well, they might be), they aren’t special (well, to me they are), and they don’t have super-human bravery (okay I’m lying). What I mean is that we are all capable of this, not just my yoga students. We have the ability, the option really, of being open hearted and connecting.

I think that’s easy to forget about when we’re hurting.

There is a sadness to this world that you and I both feel, you know exactly what I mean when I say that, but there is also that resounding and ringing with truth HAPPINESS out there, and how lucky we are that we aren’t alone in either of those things, and always have someone, even a stranger next to us in a yoga class, to partner up with for this wild and true of heart experience called being alive.

Thank you students and to everyone else I see, for being my teachers too.

Love,

Georgie

 

 

 

I think some people just come for the music…

For some reason I still expect students to come up to me after class with their earth-shattering questions about yogic philosophy, proper alignment, how to get into that arm balance, or what yoga mat is the best for slippery hands. And alas, this rarely happens, but I do have at least a few students come up to me after class asking for my wisdom. About yoga? Not so much. About the music I play in class? Always and often.

Hey Georgie, what’s that song that’s like da da da de doo doo da de doo doo doo something something? 

So here ya go, my fellow music nerds. My playlist from last night’s hilariously healing partner yoga flow class:

Shak’em Loose Tonight -Rumspringa

You May Be Blue-Vetiver

Summer Light-The Cave Singers

Stay Zombie Stay-Elvis Perkins

Seeds of Night-The Cave Singers

Minds Awake-Rumspringa

Swim Club-The Cave Singers

Snakes and Lions-melpo mene

Video Games-Lana Del Rey

Indra-Thievery Corporation

Lebanese Blonde-Thievery Corporation

What the Water Gave Me-Florence + The Machine

This Is What-Horse Feathers

Trailer Trash-Iron Horse

Lavender Street-David Wax Museum

Finch On Saturday-Horse Feathers

Some Day Soon-Alexi Murdoch

Tiger Mountain Peasant Song-Fleet Foxes

 

My favorite song from last night, I’ve been yoga-ing and possibly dancing around my room to this all week:

 

I’ll keep posting these. See you soon yogis.

Love,

Georgie

Climbing for beauty

Ah yes, there you are 2012. It’s good to see you. Really good.

It’s been beautiful in California this winter, with literally no rain for the past month, lots of sun, and crispy air. The snow-sport lovers and natural ecosystem have been begging for rain and snow, but as a climber, I’m in heaven. A few days after the New Year I headed down to Bishop, California, with Alex, a few crash pads and our climbing shoes. Bishop is already that place that every climber drools over, with abundant boulders, all of them tall enough to break your leg and scare the shit out of you if your head starts taking over, with beautiful rock that loves up on your fingers as if all the features were made for a human hand, and with views of the Sierras like an Ansel Adams photograph. The lines that these rocks offer make you move in a way that just feels good, and I find myself craving those same movements this morning as I write this. There are no tourists and no fees to pay, it still has that wild feeling that so many places have lost. Yes, Bishop is perfect. It is. But this season, it was particularly dreamy because of the winterless winter that California has had. I wore a t-shirt as I climbed the sunny, 60-degree days, and as I stood on top of the massive boulders I looked out over a vast, open valley that stretched right up to the base of the snowless Sierras.

In January.

Needless to say, Bishop has been on my mind.

The trip down to Bishop was different from other climbing outings. Climbing, for me, has always come along with a sense of frustration, to some degree. Even if it’s just a moment of damnit Georgie, just get your ass up this thing, thoughts of anger and irritation accompany my climbs.

But not in Bishop.

I don’t know if it was the beautiful setting, the fact that I wasn’t freezing my ass off like I every other year of winter bouldering, the rock that bit back on my finger pads, the winter sun or the cleansing air, but this girl did not think one firey thought the entire time we were down there. I was having fun and truly enjoying the stretch, pull, and power that climbing offers a body.

And let’s get one thing straight–I was NOT sending (completing any routes). Not at all. I wasn’t finishing anything hard, and neither was Alex. This usually sets a tone of frustration, and initiates a desperate quest to find a hard route that is finishable. But not this time. I surrendered to the fact that Bishop grades and Bishop routes were going to kick my ass. And that’s when it all changed.

It had to. Most of the routes that I’d like to be climbing in Bishop are just too big and too bad for what I am capable of right now.

 

One of the smallest boulders in Bishop.

One of the smallest boulders in Bishop.

 

I realized that I might as well be climbing for beauty. What line offers the most beautiful moves, the most beautiful rock? Difficulty didn’t matter anymore and neither did if I finished them. It was just about the movements and how the route made me feel. And because Bishop is the shit, I had a lot of routes to choose from that were gorgeous and made me feel good.

 

 

Yoga started becoming amazing and more effective too, when a while ago I let go of the idea that sticking some arm balance would make me happy, that handstand scorpion would make me a better person, that practicing every day would give me answers. Now, I do the poses that make my body feel the best, and every day that means something different.

When it was time for Alex to leave and go back to Georgia for his last year at school, it was discussed (and had been discussed for a little while) that being in a long distance relationship was taking its toll, that trying to force this to work wasn’t in fact working, that it was time for us to spend some time alone, and that we should, ya know, break up. Yeah. Sad stuff like that.

I still really love him.

I’ve learned more about myself from a field of boulders and a yoga mat than anything else in this life. Solidified minerals and eco-friendly rubber have been my best teachers. This winter as I breathe across a rock or through my morning yoga practice, I am reminded that sometimes we must let go of doing the most difficult asana or route, of completing some lofty New Years resolution, of grinding and fighting to be the best or better, of holding on to relationships and situations that are difficult, of being the biggest and the baddest. Sometimes, it’s true, the rock is too big, the route too hard, our hips just not quite open enough, and the fight not worth the toll it will take on our hearts.

And all of that is okay. It is.

In Bishop I let go of climbing hard (I didn’t really have a choice), instead I climbed for what looked the coolest, the prettiest, the most bad ass, the route that would make me feel the best. I’m pretty sure I smiled for every moment of that trip. Even in my sleep. And that’s what I plan to do for the rest of 2012, too.