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A few nights ago I took a fundamentals yoga class at Suryaside yoga in Sunnyside NY. This class was taught by the amazing yoga teacher Lauren Pires. While the class wasn’t too physically demanding for me it was a mental kick in the ass or maybe the head. Let me explain, you see in this class Lauren gave a very simple cue on body awareness and alignment that had me constantly fighting my ego the entire class, “keep your chin lined with your sternum when you twist to the side”. For someone like me that has a chronic habit of acting like I have a “chucky doll or exorcism head” and cranking way past my shoulders because I think that’s doing something for my body or giving me a deeper twist. I learned from Lauren that its really not and had to humble myself and fight my ego the entire class. Being advised to keep my head lined with my sternum was a huge moment of constantly fighting that urge to do what I had always been used to doing. For someone that is an experienced yoga practitioner with years of practice and also a yoga teacher myself it was very challenging, but that's why I like to go back to the fundamentals or basics every now and then.

Now what’s really interesting about this class is the timing and my recent work and research over the past few days of recognizing my need to reflect on, introspect about and expose the dark or shadow side of my personality in order to fully be the person that I am meant to be. In the morning prior to taking this class I did a guided meditation that helped to lead me through this process.

The meditation was about relinquishing hurts and pains from the past knowing that I am safe and protected now, surrendering to the present and constantly staying grounded in the now, so that I may create a future that I desire and show up as my truest and most authentic self. Essentially slowly removing the mask of the ego that I have layered over myself piece by piece during my life. Just as this mask wasn’t formed in a single day it can not be removed in a single day and must be peeled away layer by layer.

These are the parts of myself that I keep hidden from the world and cover up with my ego in order to avoid pain and seek pleasure. These are the lies, vulnerabilities, deceits, and manipulations. These are the boxes that I’ve put myself into because of an experience or because I succumbed to someone else’s definition or label of me.

My Ego

My Ego

How My Ego Wants To Be Perceived

At the end of class Lauren said that yoga is “not meant to change you but instead peel back the layers to expose who you already are.” I was completely astounded in how that related to my constant mental work in class of not succumbing to my ego during my twists, and my work outside of class on beginning to peel back or unveil the layers of myself that resulted in my ego in the first place.

Furthermore the cue of keeping the chin and head aligned with the sternum also had deep symbolism for me. The sternum is a large breast bone that covers and helps to protect the heart. Keeping in a state of making sure I didn’t crank my head past my sternum was a physical reminder to always lead with my heart and not let my head or ego go too far but instead remaining centered, humbled, and grateful.

“Relinquish the past so that you may surrender to the present in order to create the future.”

~ Camille C. Ricks – Yogini Transit

The other day I sat down to do this guided meditation that I had found online. It was a meditation that was intended to help you let go and surrender. What I didn’t expect was to have such an intense emotional response to this meditation literally to the point where I began streaming tears from my face and sobbing out loud several times throughout the session. I didn’t realize that I would have such emotional response when things were said about not needing to be in control all the time and just learning to live with ease and flow.

I have always tended to try to control everything to my favor, to avoid my fear of being vulnerable or hurt. Always attempting to manipulate and coax situations and people to do as I desire so that I would get the results that I wanted in a situation. What I have had to realize is that I don’t have to try to control everything and that it’s ok to sometimes make mistakes or be put into an unexpected situation because that is where I will grow and learn.

I also need to practice letting go and surrendering more often, both mentally and physically. Doing this meditation has made me realize that I have a ton of layers of shit that I need to surrender and let go of. The release that I felt was both amazing and scary at the same time. Feeling completely open, exposed, and vulnerable and going into the parts of myself that I have kept enclosed for so long is not easy. Admitting to myself and to the world that I am not perfect and realizing that I don’t always have to try to create perfect situations feels both uplifting and scary. Always trying to give off the persona of being reserved, poised, and in control has led me to being in a situation where I can often come across as robotic and unrelatable. That trying to always be the smartest person in the room and being pedantic and persnickety is not helping me.

That there is no need for me to always try to force and manipulate what I want, but instead I need to just sometimes let what I want come into being with ease. I remember several months ago during the summer of 2018 when I was doing my yoga teacher training in India my classmates and I had been invited to the wedding of our teacher’s sister. It was a traditional Indian wedding and we were all going to dress in beautiful sarees. We were able to borrow beautiful sarees from our teacher but we would need to go out to the shops to get the blouse to wear underneath. Some time passed and soon we were only one day away to the wedding.

My classmate Esperanza and I set out that day to find the needed blouse and other accessories to complete our outfit. When after we had stopped at several stores and had been looking for a long time, I began to get frustrated and fearful that I would not find what I needed in time. I took the controlling approach. I left my friend behind and travelled to the next town over to look for what I needed. When I returned my friend Esperanza that had taken the approach of ease told me that in the time that I was gone that she had come across a shop owner whose wife was a met someone that was a local tailor from out of their home. She was able to find the perfect blouse that she needed that way along with beautiful accessories and with out exerting the force and extra effort that I did of traveling to another destination and feeling like she was in a crunch. She just went about her day with the desire to find what she needed without feeling attached to the result. She was able to attract it to her instead of trying to force the outcome.

Reflecting back on this experience now what I am learning is that not trying to control things can lead me to attracting what I need and want into my life more often and easier than taking a forceful approach.

I have been practicing yoga on and off for over 10 years. I've completed a 200 hr yoga teacher training and I've practiced a range of yoga styles including Vinyasa, Hatha, Baptiste, Bikram, Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, etc. What I've learned in this time and with my practice is that even with years of yoga experience that I sometimes need to go back to the fundamentals every now and then. Additionally as a new yoga teacher being in a fundamentals class gives me great ideas on how I can cue and structure my own classes for beginners when I teach.

I am able to look at poses in a new way and have several aha moments such as learning that my stance was too short in my downward facing dog pose . I also sometimes find that I am given suggestions on my alignment that I may not be aware of. This results in personal improvement and development. There was a time when I would feel as if I was "too good " or had been doing yoga for "too long" to go into a beginners/fundamentals class. Fundamentals, yeah that's for people that don't know the difference between a down dog and a hot dog I would think. I thought I was already way past that stage but what I am realizing is that it is important to continuously go back and review the basics over and over again and there is always something new to learn.

Downward Facing Dog

Hotdog Facing Dog

I've been really lucky and grateful to recently become part of a great studio with amazing teachers in Sunnyside NY called Suryaside Yoga. I've found myself taking a few of their fundamentals classes in addition to other classes that they offer and I plan to continue to take more.

So my suggestions for all of you "advanced and experienced" yogis out there... try out a beginners or fundamentals class and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you learn and experience. Furthermore share the last aha moment that you had about a particular yoga pose that you thought you knew well but then learned something new. For those new to yoga share how a fundamentals class has benefited your learning process as a new practitioner.

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