Sometimes the best yoga is no yoga

I have a dear friend I’ll call Samuel.  Samuel and I see each other outside of class fairly regularly.  We talk. We laugh. He’s a really super guy.  Each time he sees me, though, he tells me he wants to come to a naked class - that he’s super eager to try nude yoga.  Then he signs up.  Invariably, the morning of class, he cancels.  Now typically, this repeated behavior is a button for me - either come to class - or stop signing up - particularly if the class is full and its preventing someone else from coming.  

But with Samuel, it’s ok.  

You see, Samuel messages me fairly regularly.  He tells me why he wants to try nude yoga.  He admits that the idea turns him on a bit.  He then admits that he feels some shame around that and discomfort around sensuality and sexuality.  

He tells me that he’s had surgery and gained a few pounds and that he is really battling with his body image right now.  One message he tells me about how he was teased as a child and how he carries those voices with him.  He shares with me that it’s these voices he hears when he’s feeling particularly critical about himself and his scars.  

He shares with me how he’s being more mindful about dealing with those voices.  He tells me how when he hears them, he stops and takes a breath.  

Just the other day Samuel signed up and canceled - again.  As usual, he was super apologetic and beating himself up for his “fear.” 

I told him to stop and take a breath.  I told him I don’t particularly care whether or not he ever comes to yoga.  You see, he’s practicing yoga. He’s learning more from his own journey and self-examination than I could probably ever teach him.  One has to be quite fearless to dive into the self. 

We, as Americans have gotten so focused on yoga as stretching, yoga as meditation, yoga as relaxing, yoga as sport, yoga as beating ourselves up, yoga as the latest Lululemon fashion, yoga as social hour or clique, yoga as a thing — that we’ve forgotten to actually practice yoga.  

Sure the jumping around the mat is fun.  I like to be upside down. I like to practice naked.  I like the community.  The crazy Instagram yoga party tricks are fun and inspiring.  But that’s NOT YOGA.  

Yoga is cultivating self awareness.  Yoga is peeling away the layers, the fears, the darkness and examining that.  Yoga is about being messy and imperfect and accepting that.  Yoga is about making mistakes and owning up to them.  Yoga is about speaking the truth even if not graceful or easy. Yoga is about truly understanding who you are and living in that magnificence, no matter what.   

So, if Samuel makes it to class one day, super.  We’ll have fun.  We’ll laugh and play.  If he never makes it, super.  He’s more yogi than most of us already.