In the infamous words of Drake, “Started from the bottom now we here.”
I mean, we’ve all gotta start somewhere #amiright?
Something unexpected happened towards the end of yoga class last night, and I got a little choked up. No, not because I face-planted during crow pose (though I came close), but because my teacher shared a personal story with us, and the way it reflected his values and views on life pretty much smacked me upside the head.
A little background on my yoga teacher – he’s one of those hilariously funny and fun, but also incredibly talented and dedicated people who can precisely guide you through one of the most challenging poses you’ve ever done, while simultaneously telling you a story that has you snorting with laughter.
To shed even more light on his teaching style, most nights during class he has two disco balls spinning in all of their glory, and he even sings and plays music for the class on his harmonium during savasana. One in a million.
Anyway, he has dealt with chronic pain in his hips and lower back for most of his life, and an MRI last week confirmed that he would have to have major surgery to correct his issues. He’s currently unable to demo any poses that require movement in his lower body, and after his surgery he’s going to be out of commission for 6 months.
That’s like a singer being unable to use their voice for 6 months, or a writer being unable to use their hands.
He said that even though he’s committed to honoring his body and healing, he’s still committed to teaching, and he promised to either Skype in for his classes, or get a recliner installed at the front of the studio. And I don’t think he was joking. Hey, where there’s a will, there’s a way!
He was sharing his news while we were winding down in a spinal twist, and remarkably his voice and demeanor were as joyful as ever. No pity party. No “woe is me.” The way he was talking about it actually made it sound like it wasn’t even that big of a deal. But as I sat there quietly twisting and breathing, I put myself in his shoes and realized how absolutely disastrous this situation would feel for most people.
As a super popular teacher, and one of the owners of a huge yoga studio/leader of a large community, his yoga skills and physical strength (among many other lovely things) have played a big role in building his livelihood and reputation.
He told us that after his 6 months of recovery are up, he’s going to be “starting from zero.”
Essentially he’s going to be re-learning each pose over again, rebuilding all of the strength that he’s worked diligently for over the years, and retraining his body from square one.
Instead of positioning this as something bad, he was psyched. He’s embracing the fact that he’s going to need to slow down and give his body what it needs for as long as it’s necessary. It sounded like he was describing an exciting adventure to us. And I think that’s because in his mind, he really was.
And that’s when a lump formed in my throat and tears started to well up in my eyes.
People often talk about how you should handle tough situations and overcome obstacles that life throws at you – but it’s rare that people actually show you. When you witness someone dealing with a tough situation with grace, it’s actually pretty stunning.
He shared his story with pure vulnerability.
He showed us what courage and resilience look like in the face of a pretty significant bump in the road.
He perfectly demonstrated what it means to surrender.
That last one is what really got me. I’ve been working on strengthening my surrender muscle – and it’s no easy feat. For pretty much my whole life my brain has gravitated towards the place of wanting to control everything and worrying about the future, rather than just trusting that everything will unfold as it should and going with the flow of life. All of my future tripping suddenly felt even more meaningless than I had already recognized it to be.
This is a real life example of how surrender can bring so much joy, hope, and meaning to even the most difficult situation.
The concept of starting from zero also resonated with me on a deep level. I personally feel that I’m currently starting from zero in multiple areas of my life, and now those areas feel like they’re filled with opportunities to surrender – and exciting adventures.
This also got me thinking about starting from zero in a broader context. I constantly hear people saying that it’s too late to start down a new path of doing something that they love, they’re too old to make changes to their eating and lifestyle habits, and they’re too damaged to have normal, loving relationships.
The fact is that it’s never too anything – unless you’re too unwilling to surrender and make choices from a place of love.
In honor of this inspiring lesson that he’s teaching his community, it feels appropriate to close this post the way he typically closes each class. (Paraphrased, as I don’t have his exact words – sorry!)
May you have the courage to speak your truth.
(Hands in prayer position to lips)
May you follow your intuition towards your passion.
(Hands in prayer position on third eye)
When you’re speaking your truth and following your passion, may you always come from the heart.
(Hands in prayer position on heart center)