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Morning Yoga: A Teacher’s Perspective
Monday through Friday, braving the cold and morning frost, a larger group of tired-eyed morning yogis stumble through my classroom door. it is 6 o’clock in the morning. Time for bad balance, stiff muscles and all the unenviable joy of morning yoga asanas.
Over the past few months, I’ve come to realize that morning students are a different breed. Kind of like the night shift crowd that you find at 7am ready to go home and sleep while the rest of us start functioning. A certain amount of weary giddiness permeates the air, and the often semi-verbal musings of, “What was I thinking?”
The morning class is full of people running to their own classes. It’s 5:45 when they start walking in the door. Many of them get up at 4:30 a.m. just to make it on time. With lines of pillows still looming over our faces and many still in their pajamas (literally), we stumble onto our mats hoping that today’s tally will somehow be better than yesterday’s. Oh, and don’t forget that when you’re done, you still have eight hours left at your real job.
This is a group that oozes dedication and maybe a little madness. Generally not soccer moms or retirees (they come to my class at 9 a.m.); this is the breed that has to be at work at nine and hope to be asleep before eleven. I’m writing this from Columbus, Ohio, where yesterday’s high temperature barely broke freezing. The sun doesn’t come up until 7:30 and is gone long before most even leave the office. It’s the climate that says, “You should learn to hibernate like a bear.”
Still, this morning crew seems to have somehow progressed in yoga and camaraderie, which seems almost unimaginable once the sun comes up. I don’t simply mean that they’ve become more flexible (which they certainly have, as shown by two students who touched their foreheads to their toes for the first time last week). This group seems to see the bigger picture of yoga. Perhaps their struggle helps them see the truth of yoga. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they see that yoga is something much bigger than what we do in a yoga class… it’s much bigger than what you do on your yoga mat.
This modest morning crowd has a bond. Within days of our first class, the bed gang had formed a motley crew of brothers and sisters. Some younger, some older, all struggling to find some semblance of balance on one leg, which at any other time of day would seem too simple to discuss. When a new student sleepily walks through the classroom door, the regulars immediately say good morning and offer a few words of encouragement. Class begins and for ninety minutes persistence, discipline and the will to survive prevail (along with the normal comedy that comes with trying to stretch at 6am).
We end with the traditional few minutes of peace and quiet. Short shavasana for recovery, recovery and relaxation; a short break before the normal day begins. But here is the real difference from the morning yogi.
While most people come to class to de-stress, that is to recover from all the stress of the day. The morning crew sees training in a different light.
The various traditional definitions of yoga can be summed up as “stilling the mind”… and that’s exactly how this group treats it. For them, yoga is not stress relief, it is stress prevention, perhaps even stress elimination. Early morning matches and early classes accompany them throughout the day. For them, yoga is not stretching, rest or relaxation. It is practice for the coming daily hardships of life.
Get up if you still want to sleep. Face the cold while your house is still warm. Go to class while others enjoy their coffee. Pull, push, twist, breathe, sweat. Now do it all and finish with a smile on your face and a sense of peace in your heart. Something about this morning practice seems to have a different effect. All those early morning struggles seem to make the rest of the day so much easier for them.
An early morning class is not for everyone, but for the 10-20 morning yogis who will meet me again before the sun rises tomorrow, thank you for always reminding me what real yoga is all about.
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