On Sunday, August 7th, 2016, my classmates and I received our 200-hour hatha yoga teacher certificates from the Charm City Yoga Center in Baltimore.
The days were long but the months were short. Our bodies changed. We got stronger, we got more flexible, we got hurt, we healed, we got resilient. Our muscles shook. Our lives changed. We fell in love, we broke up, we moved in, we moved out, we celebrated new marriages. We grieved. We celebrated.
On this last weekend of training, each of us took turns teaching segments of the 90-minute sequence we used as a learning tool over eight months. The sequence uses every posture we have learned, and offers pranayam and formal relaxation. For most of the weekend, we were split into different groups, practicing simultaneously.
On the culminating day, we all came together in the morning for an intense kundalini practice with Martha McAlpine. She struck a nerve in her talk with us and I started to cry. Throughout the rest of the day, I wept because this was the last time we would all be together and I was so, so attached to my tribe, this safe space, and our status as teacher trainees.
As I left that night, certificate in hand, sinuses aching, head pounding, I reflected on why I was so upset. My sweet friends had tried to comfort me, but this just left me more distraught. I began to think of my emotional state in terms of attachment and aversion - the two visceral human reactions to external stimuli we had been taught about, had observed, and wondered if we would conquer. Satchinanda speaks to the "dualities" of the human mind in his translation of Patanjali's sutra 2.48. More applicable to my own situation, Charles Johnston chooses to call them "infatuation" and "sorrow."
I have always had a terrible time with transitions and goodbyes. As a child, I was infamous at my preschool for separation anxiety. (If any of my classmates are reading this, this should not surprise them.) Every year in elementary school on, I cried and cried at the beginning of each new school year, mourning the loss of summer. I was so scared of the unknown that would come the next day.
Paradoxically, I always found something to get attached to wherever these transitions took me. I remember being dropped off in tears at summer camp only to be collected a week later and weep the whole way home because I already missed the new friends I had made.
So here I was, weeping openly at what was supposed to be a happy, celebratory moment. These eight months were extremely rewarding and educational. I have no doubt the program prepared me to embark on a long adventure of further training and teaching. But it was also another lesson in attachment.
I was so desperately clinging to the current moment and the recent past that I had demonized the future. I had let fear convince me that if this was a place of love and support, once the experience was over, I would be cast into a void. But fear is at the core of attachment: we are so scared that there's nothing else out there that we cling to whatever is familiar.
While my heart is still aching for the program to be over, and over how much I'll miss my friends who are moving across states and oceans right now, there's no reason the next chapter won't bring just as much love and joy. Our guru, Kim Manfredi, wrote to us from a village in Spain: "This is your tribe. There is no one else and no one better. Love each other forever."
Atha yoganusasanam means "Now the exposition of yoga is being made." Others have translated it as "Now begins the teaching of yoga." Allison Korycki, one of my teacher trainers, expresses this idea as: "Yoga is now." As my dear classmate Kelsey reminded us during our final practice together, everything can be experienced with the beginner's mind as if for the first time. So there's no need for me to mourn the end of an era.
Another classmate, Justin, ended our practice in savasana with these fitting words attributed to Thomas Merson: “If God is everywhere then there is nowhere to go and nothing to do in order to love." What a simple and divine thought. All the beautiful people and memories I have ever grieved are present and valid in my every moment. There is nothing to dread. I just need now.