Reflections & Inspiration

Thoughts On Practice & Class

by Carin Allen :: June 2008

There are many reasons why I practice yoga.  Health.  Balance. A connection with myself.  A connection with others.  To develop nonviolence, truth, and to uncover the veil of avidya.  Each of these has essential meaning and in my life, but if I had to say what draws me to yoga – what keeps me coming to the mat every day – it is the experience of discovery.  It is the inspiration and wisdom that comes through awakening the unknown parts of my being. 

By nature, I am a traveler; I have always loved to travel.  Whether it’s on a bus watching all the houses zip by, on a plane leaving one place & climate only to arrive hours later in a new place with different smells and weather, or on my yoga mat – I have always loved the experience of exploring, sojourning, discovering new territories, and encountering myself in new places.  My yoga practice provides the unique and blessed opportunity to travel into the landscapes of my being, and to explore the depths and dimensions of my body, mind and heart.  Like a deep sea diver who plunges beneath the surface, I explore the worlds of my being on my mat. 

Yet like all types of travel, discovery is not always easy.  Some days I find myself in unwanted territory, into an unpleasant mood or a forgotten samskara. Or sometimes I find I’m in a place that used to be known and now something has shifted and become unfamiliar, and that too brings discomfort.  These excursions on my yoga mat can be uncomfortable, unwanted, or down-right terrifying.  It can also be disorienting.  Sometimes I can lose myself in these inner landscapes, not knowing which way is up or where the door is.  There are days when I find I’m sinking into the darkness of the bottom of the sea – unable buoy myself to the surface, and equally unable to move into the depths below. 

For me, coming to yoga class each week is an act of re-orientation.  As a traveler refers to a map, being in class is an opportunity to be “lifted up”, to see where I am in relation to other things, and to re-connect with the goal of where I’m going.  On an emotional level, the “lift” is made most tangible by the sense of community.  Being with my fellow yogis and yoginis, surrounded by your warmth and your burning zeal for practice, I feel buoyed up to the surface and awakened.  And further, our teachers and the teachings provide the essential map, the way forward into our practice.  Sometimes the teachings reinforce my own discoveries and encourage me to keep digging further into my pathways of questioning.  And sometimes they show me how far off the path I’ve gone.  Either way, I always feel when I leave class knowing better where I’m going. 

After class each week, the challenge becomes bringing that inspiration and redirection and sense of discovery back to my own yoga mat.  And in this practice, I think about what I do when I travel: I keep my map in my back pocket and I look at it often.  Similarly, I never like to be too far from class.  It is my lifeboat, my weathervane, and without it, I may experience many things but never be able to say where I have been.