Oh How The Years Go By

This past weekend I was at the Yoga & Pilates Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. While I wandered around the Exhibition hall checking out the vendors, there were free yoga classes every half hour in the middle of the giant show room at the Vancouver Convention Center.

I was talking to yoga teacher I just met, Rebecca Kray at the Semperviva Yoga booth, and she kept looking at the yoga stage. It was for a good reason, Doug Swenson was doing a yoga demo, showing impeccable form in poses that require a high degree of strength and flexibility. (I later randomly bumped into him, and he told me he was supposed to lead a class, but something went awry with the microphone, so he improvised).

The whole conference show became quieter. Most people were in awe watching Doug seamlessly transition from one arm balance to another. I, too, stood still and watched. And then something hit me: I wasn’t very impressed.

Whoa there, Nikki, what do you mean, “not impressed”? (Um, hi Doug :)).

Let me elaborate. I was indeed truly impressed with Doug’s mastery of the yoga poses and their sequences. As an asana practitioner, I know all the hard work that he must have put in, over the years and decades of dedicated practice, to be able to spontaneously do a demo like that. I admired the physical artistry and the gorgeous way his body moved, similar to the way I admire gymnasts and Cirque du Soleil performers: with jaw-dropping awe.

However, as I stood there watching Doug and then looking around, I wondered how many people in the audience were equating this to yoga. It reminded me of one particular class during my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training when we were asked to bring in a picture related to yoga that inspired us. I brought in an advertisement from Lululemon (yes, those of you who just met me or heard my rant on “all that glitter is not gold” yoga clothes might be shocked, shocked, shocked :)).

The ad featured an unnamed male yogi doing incredible yoga poses, which inspired me, most likely because I wanted to be able to do them (but I think publicly I said they were inspiring for exhibiting strength and determination and humility and all those you know, more noble reasons.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m *still* inspired by those poses. I’m *still* working on my biceps lifting up and my chest and shoulders opening for Pincha Mayurasana. Those who talk to me about yoga know that I can’t stop yapping about anatomy and the mechanics of a yoga pose. Yes, the physical aspect of yoga is still very much part of my practice (for at least one reason).

And yet, as I reflected on how much my perspective has shifted, from the days of trying to imitate Richard Freeman doing the Primary and Intermediate series and wanting to look like people in Lululemon ads to now, I’m actually amazed at how far I’ve come. I watched Doug with all the appreciation of seeing a master yogi in action without any comparison to my own practice, without judging if I can or can’t do certain thing, and without wondering when I’ll be able to do what he can.

So really, what I should have said is not that I wasn’t impressed, it’s that I realized this was only a piece of the pie, a perspective that I didn’t have the maturity to understand not too long ago.

Okay, cheesiness alert here, matey, but I have to do it. I’ve got to say that the feeling is that of lightness, and … ahem, yes, a glimpse of an incredible sense of freedom.

This is the ad I brought to my yoga teacher training, once upon a time, as "inspiration"

This is the ad I brought to my yoga teacher training, once upon a time, as "inspiration"