Why Yoga Makes Me Love You

There's something about teaching a yoga class that makes me love everyone. By the end of class, I love every student, and I love everyone I see in the hours following the class. I know that probably sounds kind of weird, but it's my truth. Yesterday I subbed a class at the Dell Fitness Center. As you may know, I was a marketing manager at Dell for 5 years, so I know how stressful the work can be. And I also know the physical, mental, and emotional relaxation that can be achieved in a carefully constructed yoga practice. Because I've walked in their shoes, I love to share yoga with my former colleagues and help them manage their stress.

As class began and the students introduced themselves, they told me they had knee issues, tension in their necks and shoulders, a back injury, and stress. One lady who I've taught before told me she wanted to work on relaxation. Another lady who was an experienced yogini, told me she'd like a yin (slow, deep) practice.

Based on their introductions, they sounded like a pretty regular group who wanted a pretty regular sort of practice, so we began the practice in a typical way.

About a quarter of the way into the practice, I began to realize that there was wide-spread tightness in the upper backs, shoulders, and necks of the students, so I shifted the practice and began to focus on more chest openers.

Half way into the practice we moved to the floor and went into a seated forward fold. And this is the moment went I began to love every single person in the class. Typically, this pose is practiced with the head slightly lifted so that one can fix their gaze on their toes. In this class, every single student hung their head so that the top of the head was nearly pointing down toward the floor.

In this moment I saw the stress in each of their bodies and the burdens on their minds, and I wanted to scoop them all up and hug them. I wanted to make the stress go away. I wanted them to feel relaxed, peaceful, and joyful.

We did another couple of seated postures, then transitioned onto some restorative heart-opening poses, followed by a 10-minute guided relaxation. As the minutes ticked by, I could see the stress leaving their bodies. Their bodies became more still, and I sensed that their minds became more still as well.

As they lay in the final relaxation posture, each person's body had visibly softened down onto their mat. No muscles gripping, no minds thinking. And in that moment I knew that I had served them as best I could.

I left them with some "homework" to do a legs-up-the-wall relaxation pose before bed tonight. It was my way of sending them off with love, giving them a tool that will help them manage their stress on an on-going basis.

When class was finished, they left the Fitness Center to head back to their desks, and I left to pick up some lunch at Chipotle. As I worked my way through the line to order my food, I felt love for a father who walked in with his young son, both carrying motorcycle helmets, for the 20-something who was sitting with her friends and eating a kid's meal, for the young man behind the counter who seemed a little bit tired as he served the rice and beans, for the lady in front of me in line who was charmingly specific about what she wanted on her burrito bowl, and for the cashier who efficiently checked me out.

I'm not exactly sure what it is about teaching yoga, but it makes me appreciate people more. Every person has their own story, their own struggles. We're often so caught up in our own stuff that we don't have time or take time or make time to observe others'.

I think teaching yoga forces me to turn off my own internal chatter so that I can focus on observing my students so I can adjust the practice and serve them as best I can. It's a continuous practice of observing, so actually for me, teaching is like a meditation. Through observing, I hear their stories without them having to speak. And knowing their stories endears them to me and I suddenly love them as a mother loves her children.

And I think just like any other kind of meditation, the glow of my teaching "meditation" carries on after the actual practice is complete, and I continue to observe and love people wherever I go.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? From the perspective of a teacher or the perspective of a student, have you ever felt love for everyone in your yoga class? Have you felt love for complete strangers you see after class? I'd love to hear about your experience in the Comments below.


Lots of love ;) Zelinda


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West Donations

Last week a small town about 90 miles to the north of us, West, was brought into the national spotlight when a fertilizer production plant explosion killed 14 and injured about 200 people. Through the media, requests went out for donations of blood for the injured, and clothing, toiletries, water, blankets, and baby care items for all those affected. So in last week's newsletter/blog post, The Yoga Room organized a donation drive on Thursday and in less than 3 days, we collected enough donations to fill an SUV.

On Sunday I drove to West to deliver our donations, and I was overcome with emotion at the beauty of hundreds of volunteers coming together to sort and distribute donations in West. When it was my turn to back my SUV up to the donation center, which was a large pavilion on the West Fair Grounds, a group of men and boys rushed up to help me unload. I was really choked up. I had a short conversation with one of the men and it was all I could do to say how beautiful it was for so many people to come together and help in this difficult time. He kindly replied, "We don't need the government - we got this." With or without government help, the power and love of humanity was strongly evident in West that day. As I drove away from the donation center, I began to cry and I had to pull off the dirt road to regain my composure.

When I left the Fair Grounds, I spent a few minutes driving around the town. I saw dozens of catastrophe response vehicles (mostly insurance companies), a makeshift clinic offering tetanus shots, restaurants with Closed signs on their front doors, dozens of news vehicles, dozens of state troopers, businesses with boarded windows, people standing around in the streets of downtown, people standing outside their houses, little handmade signs directing people to the donation drop off location, and a Jack in the Box food truck offering free food. It was undoubtedly a big increase in traffic for this small town.

Visiting West in the wake of the tragic fertilizer plant explosion was an overwhelming and maybe even life-altering experience for me. It took me a several days to process and make sense of it.

On one hand there is the enormity of the tragedy, the loss of life, the injuries, the destruction of property. I witnessed West as a disaster zone. And we see images of disasters online and on TV all the time, but experiencing it in person is a whole different thing. It feels heavy and real.

On the other hand there is the profound outpouring of love by the "helpers," to quote the term from the widely circulated Mr. Roger's quote from last week. These volunteers came out in the hundreds to help the people of West, and it was a beautiful sight to see. I'm proud that we all were able to help in our own small way.

Many blessings to the people of West, and many blessings to the helpers during this difficult time.

XO, Zelinda