Early Morning Grace

February 20th, 2018
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What’s the first thing you want to do when you’re alarm (or cosleeping toddler) goes off at 6am on a freezing winter morning?  If you’re like me, it’s probably not jump out of bed, get in your car, and go to a yoga class.  But since going back to sleep isn’t an option, a yoga class is a great second choice.

Why? Well, the obvious: because it feels good when you are done.  But also because you learn something about yourself.

That’s why I wanted to add an intermediate level yoga class at 7:30am on Saturdays.  So there’s a space for learning some new things about ourselves.  So we can take on the challenge of growing from that knowledge, of changing and shaping ourselves – mentally and physically – from our practice.

Many of the people who come to my class are familiar with my educational background in the sciences – perhaps to their frustration when I talk about force diagrams in postural alignment.  It was my privilege and honor to study under many of the excellent teachers who make up the professors at my college.  One of those professors – from whom I did not take a class, but had friends who did – gave an excellent speech on grace, The Lesson of Grace in Teaching (http://mathyawp.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-lesson-of-grace-in-teaching.html).  In this case, it was specifically grace in teaching.  If my years teaching yoga has taught me anything, however, it is that we are all simultaneously both teachers and students.  A sometimes contradictory dyad of roles that is made possible by grace and all the elements of which it is made.

That is our challenge.  That is our practice.  For all of us.  To find grace for others, for ourselves, and to practice that grace in such a way that eventually, like our physical yoga practice, it becomes an easy, comfortable, natural pattern that just is a part of our being.

In the way of our interconnected world, another math professor wrote a blog post inspired from the first professor’s speech (Kindness in the Mathematics Classroom by Art Duval, https://blogs.ams.org/matheducation/2018/02/19/kindness-in-the-mathematics-classroom/), and linked a comic which I had seen before, but having never grouped it with my yoga practice or teaching, had forgotten. It is also an article well worth reading on its own for inspiration on putting the idea into practice.

Ten Thousand


We are simultaneously the one who doesn’t know about “the diet coke and mentos thing” and the one who gets to share it with someone else.  But sometimes we – at least I – forget about maintaining that dyad.  Either the teacher or the student takes precedence and we lose something.  We lose a little awareness, we lose a little balance, we lose grace.

Wait, wait!  “What the heck does this have to do with my asana class”, you ask?  You just want to stay in handstand for 30 seconds or master king pigeon?  Grace.  Kindness and respect for yourself, physically, on the way towards your goals.  Patience and acceptance for yourself, mentally, on the way towards your goal.  Really believing in the deepest way that accomplishing the goal doesn’t define your success or worthiness in any way. Giving grace – in your own thoughts – to all the others in class doing their practice.  And then translating this kindness, respect, patience, acceptance, and belief to others as you interact with them.

Finally, why do I bring this up in relation to an intermediate class?  Why not in a every class if it’s so important?  Well, I do bring this up in my all levels class.  Because it is important.  But once you have learned how to physically keep your body in a safe space – you know where your feet go in warrior I, you know how to work the muscles for external rotation of the hip joint, you know what it feels like when your abdominal muscles are keeping your low back out of excess extension, you know what it feels like just before you’ve hyperextended your shoulders in down dog and you stop yourself – once you know all that, there is room to push your physical body safely, to push your emotional body with respect, and to push your mental body with awareness.

So I challenge all of us to practice this grace on our mat, for that concentrated practice on the science laboratory of our mat, where we can start with the easier to access physical realm before diving into the emotional and mental realms.  And I challenge all of us to practice it off the mat, in our lives and our relationships with every other soul in the world – the ones you love, the ones you don’t, the ones you cross paths with only momentarily in your lives, and the ones whom you never meet at all.  Offer grace, kind loving respect and acceptance. Just imagine the difference it would make in the world.


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