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The Practice of Love

I was having a discussion with someone last night about teaching yoga and explaining that when I teach I feel the most authentically myself. I have a tendency to detach and not to open up in my day-to-day life, even with some of my closest friends but I can sit down in front of a yoga class and bare my soul.

Yoga…both teaching and practicing…softens me. This morning I was leading my students through their warm up and just seeing them move and breathe together caused me to get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. It’s so beautiful to see people on their mats and showing up exactly as they are. I encourage my yogis to do just that. To stop and realize where they are physically and emotionally every time they come to their mat and to practice from that place, honoring what their body and minds need that day and acknowledging that what we need is different every single practice.

If you’d told me in college that I would be a yoga teacher at the age of 30 I would never in one million years have believed it. And now that I am, I could never in a million years imagine giving it up. Teaching yoga is the single most rewarding and fulfilling thing in my life.

In the past few weeks I’ve taught a LOT of yoga and to many different audiences. It furthered my realization that I could care less whether I’m teaching to 2 people or 40 people, in heat or in the air conditioning, to new yogis or seasoned yogis…I just want to teach.

8.11CIS

Last Thursday I taught a 25-minute yoga class for the staff of Communities in Schools. It was their kickoff meeting for the 2013 school year and I was asked to start their day with some yoga. 98% of my audience had never done yoga and half of them were in jeans or work clothes but I told them to show up as they were and to focus on breathing and moving. Yoga does not have to be complicated. All we did was work on lifting arms over the head, gentle forward folding, side bending, lunging and twisting and finished with a two minute meditation for caregivers.

8.11cis2

They loved it and couldn’t believe how good they felt after stretching for such a short period of time. These are people who stay tightly wound. Their jobs require so much of them. They are in the schools every day working to reduce drop outs and keep at-risk youth in schools, working with pregnant teens to help them find a way to balance motherhood and staying in school and helping students who never thought college was an option to see it as a possibility for them. It’s amazing what they do.

I got connected to this group through a student who comes to Y2 and is the executive director for the organization. I have worked with them once in the past and can’t wait to continue the relationship. I would love to do more outreach like this.

8.11frog

This was a special morning at my 9:15 “yoga church.” The theme of class today was love and hip opening. Lately, I’ve experienced an aching heart and aching hips. These two things are related. When we are experiencing emotional stress it does manifest in our bodies. I invited my class to practice today from a place of love. To dedicate their practice to a person they love or to themselves for greater self love.

They loved me when I held them in frog for 6 minutes but didn’t move because I played them the story of Danny and Annie. If you’re newer to my blog, you MUST go back and read my post about frog pose and the story of Danny and Annie. It’s one of the sweetest love stories I have ever heard.

8.11savasana

Today was also an anomaly because every single one of my students stayed for savasana. This happens almost never. It’s not unusual to lose almost half the class once we hit the floor. I was so happy to see them so engaged in their practice. The energy and love in the room this morning was special.

I’ll leave you with what I read my class this morning…

“The practice of love—actions and attitudes that create an atmosphere of kindness, acceptance, and unity in ourselves and in those around us—is not only the basis of spiritual life, it is also the basis of civilization. We can’t always feel gratitude, but we can remember to say thank you. We can’t always like other people, but we can try to pay attention when they talk to us and help them out when they’re in trouble. We may not feel good about ourselves all the time, but we can practice treating ourselves gently, slowing down and breathing when we want to rush, or talking back to our inner voices of self-criticism and judgment. When it comes to daily life, feeling love may actually be less important than acting loving.

This isn’t meant as an argument for pasted-on smiles, or for the common game of hiding anger and judgment behind a mask of false sweetness. The practice of loving is never about presenting a false front. Instead, it’s an active answer to one of life’s greatest questions: How can I, in spite of what I may be feeling at a particular moment, offer my best to myself and other people?

If you pose this query to yourself—or, better yet, ask yourself, How would I act if I were feeling love?—you will eventually discover the practice that helps melt your frozen heart, so the love that always hides behind our emotional barricades can show its face.” – source

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Ruby August 11, 2013, 3:31 pm

    People get up and leave without doing savasana?!? And this is normal?? That’s so crazy to me. I practice in and near Philadelphia, and that is unheard of around here, at least it is where I go. Nobody ever gets up until the end, and we always have such an emphasis on how important it is to have that time to reset and to end by sealing in your practice and honoring your fellow yogis. It almost feels disrespectful to me that people would do that. But, I guess to each their own, and yoga has that amazing ability to be so many things to so many people. One of the things I like about this blog, as well as some others that I read, is learning about how different people in different places do the same thing. Sometimes it makes me like things just the way I have them, sometimes I learn something new I’d like to incorporate.

  • 2
    amy August 11, 2013, 4:49 pm

    What a beautiful post! I am new to Charlotte, just moved here a month ago from Oklahoma with my husband. One of the things I wanted to do once I moved here was start practicing yoga. To be honest I have been a little intimidated since I have never taken a class before. This post just gave me the push that I need to try a class! Does the studio you teach at offer a beginners class? By the way, I really enjoy your blog and reading about your life here in Charlotte. My husband and I LOVE it here!! We did your bodyweight circuit the other day and about died! We did make it through all three rounds though… Barely!

  • 3
    Julia @ Basket of Juls August 11, 2013, 5:46 pm

    Thank you so much for that beautiful and powerful post! I had not heard that story of Danny and Annie, and it really embodied that “place of love” that we all have within ourselves. I was BAWLING my eyes out by the end! I’m so curious what emotion would flow and what I would feel if I heard that story while holding such an intense pose as Frog. You have truly inspired the practice of love/yoga 🙂

  • 4
    Devin August 11, 2013, 6:39 pm

    Interesting that there’s a correlation between an aching heart and aching hips. I suffer from extremely tight/sore hips to the extent that it’s limited my ability to run long distances (anything over 13-14 miles does me in). And, although my heart hasn’t “ached” in the traditional sense in quite some time, my heart chakra could use a little TLC. Although I totally subscribe to the whole energy-based healing concept (Anatomy of the Spirit is an amazing book, if you haven’t read it) it hadn’t actually occurred to me that the pain in my hips could be related to suppressed emotions.

    I actually just stumbled onto your blog yesterday while looking for some new Tabata routines. Looks like I found you at just the right time (as if there were ever a wrong time), otherwise I may have missed this post. Thank you for spreading such a beautiful message, and I wish you (and your heart) well.

  • 5
    Mary August 11, 2013, 6:58 pm

    I absolutely LOVE that quotation at the end. I live on the East Coast of Canada but I so wish I could take one of your classes; I hope your class helped to heal your heart and your hips.

  • 6
    DkotaGirl August 11, 2013, 8:44 pm

    Thank you for such a beautiful post, Jen. I recently attended a workshop where the instructor talked about the link between our hips and relationships, and as we practiced hip opening exercises I was overcome with a range of emotions. I love that you have your students listen to the story of Danny and Annie in frog pose – I can only imagine the opening that happens in hearts and hips during that time.

  • 7
    Karen burnham August 11, 2013, 9:50 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time, being introduced to it by my daughter who livEs in NYC. Even though I’m a senior, I live the exercise and food part of your blog, as well as your accounts of daily life. I listened to the story of Danny and Annie, thinking about my husband and our marriage, even though each if us is totally healthy at the moment. It just made me grateful for what I have. For health and love. Thank you for a thought provoking post.

  • 8
    Holly August 11, 2013, 10:30 pm

    Who leaves before savasana?! Peeps be cray.

  • 9
    Ashley August 11, 2013, 11:35 pm

    Such beautiful words. There is nothing better than taking a class from a teacher that is as passionate as you are, and I know EVERY. SINGLE. ONE of your students can see and feel this passion in you. While driving from GA to VA last week, we stopped into Charlotte only for dinner, and I told my husband how badly I wish we could stay longer so that I could take one of your classes. Maybe on day soon!

    One of my favorite sentences from this post was that you if you would have told your college self that at 30 you would be a yoga teacher you would have never believed it but now you couldn’t imagine any other way. Isn’t life funny like that. Anyway, great post, Jen, thanks for sharing your soul!

  • 10
    Pam August 12, 2013, 7:14 am

    Beautiful
    Just Beautiful…

  • 11
    meghan @ struggle muffins August 12, 2013, 9:35 am

    Love this! I can absolutely relate to feeling most like your true self when teaching yoga. Its such a great way to tap into that, since life tends to draw you away from it and into needs, responsibilities, etc. Great post!

  • 12
    Lisa August 13, 2013, 5:19 pm

    Beautiful story, I don’t recommend watching in while you are at work.

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