Her face was clean. That’s what I remember thinking when I first saw her. Remarkably clean. Clean lines, arched brows, beautiful bone structure. Exquisite, really. She had a look about her — that unique paradox of girl next door/supermodel rolled into one. In a way, she reminded me of a movie star. She didn’t want to meet my gaze. When I introduced myself, like I always do when new people come to my class, she looked side to side, trying not to meet my eyes. Her voice was soft. Ryan was her name. She had a boy’s name. I love it when girls have boys name’s. A dear student brought her, Iris, one of the one’s I have enjoyed watching blossom of late. I’m always excited to meet her friends when she brings them. Iris has brilliant energy and usually attracts like-minded souls.
I settled in and started teaching the class. Breathing, seated work and then onto core work we went. It’s a gradual, but intense progression. The core work we teach is not for the faint of heart. It’s slow, meticulous, exact and often described as excruciating. Trembling is normal. Quaking is too. Profuse sweat? Yep. Absolutely. Those of us who practice it everyday love it. We crave it. We see how it pans out and helps us in poses and in life. Things just aren’t quite so intimidating when you have a rock solid core. It makes sense if you think about it. So we teach it with gusto, passion and more than a small amount of well-intended sarcasm. I find if I make people laugh in core work, they usually hate it less.
I looked at Ryan. She was totally lying there, watching her friend work her ass off and doing nothing. This does not fly in my class. And yet, somehow, I knew something was up; something didn’t feel quite right. I could tell her quit-streak ran deep. I could tell confronting her head on might not be the most effective strategy. So I did something I rarely do — I looked the other way.
Then when core work was over, while all of the other students were writhing in that miserable glee that comes from someone politely kicking-your-ass-royally, I approached her.
I whispered, ‘Are you ok? Is something going on?’ I was hoping she wasn’t injured or worse, pregnant, as I never want someone to engage in this work when prenatal.
She looked at me and spoke in a plain voice, ‘Yes, I’m fine. I’m just new. Do you want me to leave?’
There it was. Something harsh, brittle, fierce disguised as gentle. A river of self-loathing washed over me when I was near her. It did not belong to me, it was hers. In my empathic abilities, I was simply picking up on it. She seemed barely able to contain her rage. Numbing it had rendered her lifeless. Dull. Void.
I looked at her and said, ‘No. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t in need of help and that you weren’t suffering an injury that I should know about.’
And then I stepped away and settled back into teaching the class. I made it a point to speak to the importance of each individual in the room. I made it a point to make sure that they all contemplated, danced around and hopefully embraced their own brilliance, beauty and joy.
Later, after class, after my date night with husband, which also falls after class, I was thinking about the exchange. It was high voltage. I knew I had side stepped a land mine. I wasn’t sure of the outcome. And of course, because the universe is infinitely kind, I received a message from my student, Iris, the one who brought Ryan.
She said, “Thank you so much for helping my friend. I’ve always wanted to bring her to class, but she has resisted. I wasn’t sure how it would go and I really appreciate you taking the time to work with her. I thought it was a lost cause, but I texted her just now and she said, I can’t stop thinking about what the yoga teacher said tonight. I want to keep going.”
Bliss. This brings me to a state of bliss. I want to help others. I hope to offer them a glimmer of their brilliance, their sparkly bits, the parts of themselves that they did not question when they were 5, but somehow between now and then they have lost touch with these pieces. My true aim, it’s not showing people how to pike into handstand, although that’s good fun, it’s to help people realize their magnificence. No matter how many days, weeks, months, years, decades, someone has spent self-flagellating, I’d rather help them see the beauty, glory, and love that resides within. Yep, within. Sigh. Good tidings, Ryan. I hope to see you soon.