Sarah Burwick's Yoga Experience
Written by Sarah Burwick.
I slept through the night last night for the first time in a long time. I can't even remember the last time I didn't have to get up to pee, or get woken up by the scenery light outside my window, a thunderstorm, or the upstairs neighbor playing his violin and his excessive whistling when he passes by my door. My body must have known I needed a good nights sleep.
Today Baron Baptiste is in town and he is teaching at his studio in Cambridge. Taking a class with Baron is a privilege since he typically only teaches at yoga bootcamps, teacher trainings, and his revolutionary weekend workshops. He is an amazing teacher, not only because of the challenging postures he throws at you; but also because of his presence as soon as he enters the room. Baron will make you stand up straighter and bow your head with a little more appreciation. I often think back and wonder what if I never took my first yoga class at the Baptiste studio 8 years ago? What would my life look like and how much extra baggage would I still be carrying around?
Having a background in gymnastics and fitness competing, I was reluctant to try yoga. I was already flexible and strong and as for the relaxation aspect of yoga I never thought being in a room with a bunch of sweating smelly people would be a place I could relax. Finally, a friend of mine convinced me to just to try. I listened. I don't remember any of the details about that first class. What I do remember is walking out the front door of the studio dripping with sweat and seeing the steam come off of the top of everyone's head around me. I felt like I was walking on a cloud. I am pretty sure this was my first naturally "high" experience.
The transition from workouts in the gym to power yoga at the studio was gradual. I was not ready to surrender completely, not yet. After a couple of years and a move that brought me closer to the studio I then became a regular yogini. I arrived early to every class. I picked my spot in the back right corner and there I stayed for a long, long time. Many people come to their yoga mats to enrich there lives. I went to escape it. I would hide in the back corner were no one could see me. I didn't make friends. I didn't talk to anyone. I just wanted to be left alone. I was harboring a secret I didn't want anyone to know.
From afar, I looked like the typical yogini right from the start. I wore the right clothes, could sink down into my hanamanasana with ease, and chanted my om's at the end of class. But if people really knew what was behind the wall I surrounded myself with they would see all my fear, terror, anxiety, and imperfections. I liked my safe little corner in the back of the room. I could surrender in my savanana like nowhere else. I could hide my eyes under my small towel and cry when I needed to.
I would have never left that corner until Brandon my first inspiring teacher, who knew how to take me to my edge on my mat started giving me a hard time about it. I now realized hiding in the corner was a stubborn pattern created by my fear. The worst part about it is I came to my mat to escape my fear and here it was following me. Class after class Brandon began pointing out my flaws which pissed me off to no end yet; I kept coming back for more. I didn't know why I liked his method of tearing me down; but it worked. My mind was getting stronger. I was beginning to see that although my body was flexible my mind was not. I needed to take more action in my life and stop repeating my old patterns which were getting me nowhere.
Today as I rushed off to Baron's class I was early as usually but I now place my mat front and center. I am going to soak up as much good vibrant energy as I can from the master teacher. I am no longer concerned that people can see me, even on my off days when I feel like crap and I am in child's pose and dumping my water over my head. Satya (truthfulness) has made its way into my heart. I don't care that I can't always keep up with my now close yoga friends at my side or that I am now a yoga teacher myself and I should be able to make it through class with ease. I know that is my ego talking. The irony is that I have so many more problems now than when I started in that dark corner 8 years ago.
Since I started yoga I have been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I have had two surgeries and radiation. I have had many seizures and anxiety attacks, I struggle with my speech from the surgery, I lost almost half my long, straight, dark, beautiful hair from radiation and now it is growing in curly and a little gray. I use a head band to cover most of it up during class. But once I hit downward facing dog I could care less if it falls off. I realized now that whether I surrender on my mat or not, the universe will find a way to bring me to my knees. My practice and my teaching are about me and how my imperfections make me perfectly unique. It is not about my story. I am so much more than my medical chart, my past, my appearance and my mistakes. I used to try to hit life before it could hit me. I now know it's not about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and still get up again.
In my savasana today at the end of Baron's class I surrender completely. I give up the control over my life in order to gain freedom from my own thoughts. Some days I am just surviving and that is all I can ask of myself, other days I am thriving. Today is one of those days.
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