Down dog, a pose everyone knows. Some people love it, a resting place after a vigorous vinyassa practice, a grounding and invigorating exploration of self. Then there are those who dread it, a place of trembling and imbalance. And finally, there are those who really loathe the experience…especially when they spot a scorpion strutting across their mat, oblivious to its own power and presence.
Yes, that’s right. A scorpion. In a yoga class? How could this be? I was as shocked as anyone – upside down or not. A week ago I was preparing the class to “Inhale, ground down through your hands, lift your hips” and, naturally, “Exhale. Ignore the scorpion crawling across your mat.” A bit of advice – if you’re encouraging your students to relax and release, pointing out the poisonous elephant in the room may be counterproductive. Instead of peace, panic followed – heaving breathing and some expression of downward dog that looked more like flopping fish (not a yoga pose, I know…).
I did what I could and put on my yoga teacher stretchy pants. Breathe. These creatures are our friends; they help our gardens and eat those pesky mosquitoes. Fine, they also can bite us, but we humans too can bite. To regain morale before our next pose I told the story of one of my earliest memories. I hadn’t lost their focus completely; no one had been bitten…yet.
Growing up my dad played guitar, a lot of it. I remember sitting as a young girl in my backyard, sun gazing, and for some reason left alone with my dad’s guitar. Suddenly, I had guests – ten bees came buzzing around my head. Somehow, the five year old in me knew to hold on to the guitar for protection, as if it was my dad’s shield, and to remain calm. Something in me, perhaps the inner guru within us all, told me to stay still, I was not bothering these bugs and they were not bothering me. Together, we were just being, enjoying the sun of a warm summer day. Stay still my body told me. And so I listened, meditating in my childlike awe of these amazing creatures circling me in every direction. Together we lived as one. I bumbled and they buzzed. And I learned, if you don’t bother them, they don’t bother you. The “they” doesn’t matter, because really there is no “they”. As a five-year-old, I became the other, like a little enlightened being with a crown of bees. The study of trantic yoga begins with this paradigm, “I am nothing like you, I’m something like you, I’m nothing but you.” First fear of the other – our scorpion – followed by understanding – everything needs to eat – okay we are similar. Then, the realization that I am that scorpion, and there really is no I.
Who wants to be swarmed away? Who wants to evoke fear and panic in others? Viewing ourselves as that scorpion on our mat, or the grunting and vocal practitioner next to us, with steady and dedicated practice we soon realize that we are nothing but them. We are nothing but the scorpion crawling across the mat, and like the scorpion we don’t want to be swatted or shooed away. We want respect, peace, and a steady mind. Let us evoke the same practice we crave in our own bodies onto all other bodies. In living this moral, we begin to live your yoga. There is no separation of the practice on your mat from the practice off.
I subscribe to the notion that teaching yoga solely for the mat is simply exercise. Life is our practice, the scorpion is our yoga. Let us not swat or squander others’ light but rather welcome it. Now, where were we? Right, raise your hips, breathe.
Join Julie for community yoga classes here at Isla Verde:
Monday: 9 – 10:30 am
Wednesday: 8 – 9:30 am
Friday: 8 – 9:30 am
Sunday: 9 – 10:30 am