Time for Yoga Mittra

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Earlier this year, while I was enrolled in Yoga Mittra, the Yoga Loft’s teacher training program, a particular kind of pattern began to emerge over the weekend sessions.Though the content of each of the weekend gatherings was quite different, a familiar sight greeted me each time I emerged from the studio doors. Among the people waiting for one of the Loft’s regularly scheduled classes, there were curious looks on their faces, craned necks adjusting from attempts at eavesdropping, and a slowness to make way for those leaving, as if to soak up the residue of of whatever had gone on in the preceding hours. The whole thing made me feel as though I had just exited the meeting of some kind of secret club.

In the interlude while the floors were cleaned and mats laid out, some would corner me and ask questions about what I thought of my time in Yoga Mitrra. But when I gave a recommendation, the response was as predictable as anything else. Invariably, the first concern on the lips of these and of so many others was the same: “I’d like to do it, but I just don’t think I’ll have time.”

I would be lying if I said that this thought had never crossed my mind. This is the worry that stilled my hand as I thought, dozens of times, about whether or not I should sign. As I went through the program, time and the uses to which we put it was one of the many things I had a chance to meditate on. And though the worry about time took many forms, their seriousness diminished as the classes went on.

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Meteorologists had projected a strong El Niño winter and, with it, a run of unusually strong surf; would I be missing out, perfect waves torturing me though the studio windows as I sat chanting on my mat? Although the rains rarely spun south of Point Conception, the ocean delivered an epic winter of waves. And despite the time commitments of the weekend I surfed more this past winter than any time in the past 15 years. Indeed, the number of days I surfed was probably heightened by going through training, because it enhanced my physical awareness and limited my exposure to gnarly injuries.

Less readily articulated, but almost as concerning: what about the simple loss of freetime? My weekdays are already filled with early mornings and evening obligations, I thought; would I resent that my weekends were no longer my own? In fact I did not. The class is social in a way that diminishes the feeling of work: I made new friends, and strengthened bonds with those I already knew. By the end I began to miss the training weekends, feeling slightly less whole on those without.

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What if something came up? A friend or relative wanting coming to town, or a work assignment that stretched beyond the confines of the office? Well, Suzy, Shelley and Gen are not dictators. They too lead lives of children and commutes and commitments. If something came up it was possible to work around it. One session I missed due to work, and found Suzy more than willing to talk with me. On another, I felt too ill to practice, and made up a class with Shelley the next week. But for the most part, my classmates and I simply made it work.

Two things unite these resolved worries. One is the fact that the time commitment is not as serious as it seems. (In the case of surfing, I was fortunate that swells seemed to arrive mostly during the week; and Saturdays are for kooks anyways.) The other, more “yoga” lesson that I took away is that time and availability are matters of perspective. We can do things that, seen from the deeply sunk path of routine, seem difficult or impossible. I don’t mean to trivialize the pull of the things with which we fill our lives, especially in the cases of marriages and children, two blessings that did not factor in my path through training.

But teacher training showed me that “busy” was all too often a word I uttered thoughtlessly and by way of excuse. Being unable to attend some event or meet some friend does not suddenly become more or less acceptable because a yoga teacher training program is filling that time. Rather, it reflects a priority, a way of divvying up a finite number of hours. Thus, for those even considering Yoga Mittra but having doubts about time, I offer a suggestion, not a sales pitch: Instead of wondering, “Do I have time?” ask yourself “How important is this to me?”

Exactly why it might be important and the benefits to be had will discussed in follow-up posts. I’ll be interviewing others who went through last year’s program with me, collecting their thoughts on what they took away.

–Ryan McDonald

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