Month of Love & Compassion

February is the month of love and compassion, and two events that happened to me recently made me pause to think about what it means to have true compassion rather than anger and judgement.

The first instance happened during our recent THIRD Anniversary Open House, which many of you joined. Thanks to all of you, we had a wonderful afternoon with great camaraderie and an amazing selection of food and desserts. During this event, a woman with unkept hair and worn clothes, whom we had never seen before, came in and began piling her plate with food, even stuffing the food into her coat pockets. It was apparent that she was not there to learn about yoga, and many of us became uncomfortable as it was clear that she was taking advantage of us. My initial reaction was, “What does this women think she is doing?!”, and I just wanted her to leave the space I love.

But as she was gathering herself to leave, with a full belly and warmed up, I stopped myself. She must have been in a very difficult spot to take the time to find out about our Open House, come into where she knew she did not belong-just to get something to eat. The anger left me as I put myself into her shoes, and I am now thankful that she was able to get something she needed here, even if it was not what I was offering.

The second instance happened a few days later on a stormy night. I was sitting at home by the fire with my family watching TV when the studio phone rang at 10 pm. A distressed young women on the other end of the line told me that she was outside of our building having just finished her class. She explained that she had left her keys in the studio, and was now unable to get back into the building as the main door automatically locks at 9 pm. She sounded frantic, cold and scared. I did not recognize her voice or name, but the reception was bad, and I could hear the rain coming down like crazy. I had a funny suspicion about this whole thing, as our teachers always spend a few extra minutes in the studio locking up, and it was well past the end of class. I did not know what else to do except to go, open the studio, and help her retrieve her keys.

After driving over to the now desolate building in the storm, I met a petite and unfamiliar young women at the front door. I let her in with my key card, and as we were taking the elevator up to the studio, I started a conversation with her. Something just was not right. Now I regretted that I did not take up my husband’s repeated offers to go with me, but it was too late. I opened the studio door, we walked in and she immediately made an excuse to leave. I looked around for the keys which I sensed were never left there, checked our class list for her name and was not surprised to find that it was not there. Right then she came in to tell me that she found her keys in the ladies room. I couldn’t believe it! She got me out of my house, late at night with a fib to open the building, so she could get the keys she left either in the ladies room or in one of the neighboring offices. I felt betrayed and taken advantage of. I just then noticed that she was not wearing yoga clothes and was holding an envelope addressed to one of our neighbors in the building.

As we were leaving the building, she was still telling me about the class (which she never took) and about her friend who brought her to the studio. I was quite close to letting her know how I really felt about her elaborate scheme and conniving attitude, when for the second time in a week, I had to stop and think about it. She was so desperate to get her car keys that she tracked me down, found my number, concocted a story, and convinced me to come and help her out. I had to let my anger go and realize that, despite the circumstances, I was supposed to help her get home that stormy night.

This was hard for me. It is difficult to let go of anger and resentment, and I know I am far from perfect. But in these instances, I chose compassion rather than anger, and in the end I feel that I made the right choice. We know that carrying anger and resentment can be harmful to us. Can you try to choose compassion the next time you are put in a situation that might cause you to react with anger, because someone unjustly took advantage of you. Can we take a deep breath and respond with forgiveness and compassion? Imagine a world in which everyone practiced compassion. Yes, it’s hard, but it starts with you!


Your Community

Guest Post By Nicole Hardin

I was reflecting today on why going to yoga classes in a studio can be such a positive experience. For years I have sought out a workout regiment that I could be committed and yoga is the only one that stuck. I am sure I am not alone in many go rounds of joining gyms, classes and programs that seemed like such a great idea and some how in short order I did a 180 and just couldn’t find the “time” to go.

I continued to reflect on why did yoga stick – what about it keeps me driving 20 minutes out of the way 3 or 4 days a week for more than a year? There are the obvious benefits of not trying to look up at a video from your down dog and having the expertise and knowledge of an instructor who is actually watching you as you are practicing. I have also have found that not having to remember a sequence allows you to focus on your breathing, the poses and get into the moving meditation state. All of this is very true for me but I think there is a greater reason that after a day or so of home practice I find myself longing for a class at the studio.

I believe that a big part of the experience of practicing has to do with the community of the studio. For each person the experience they are seeking is different which could explain why there are so many different types of yoga and so many different types of studios.

When I practice I want to find a place where I am welcomed by the warmth of the people and the room. I think for most of us it is important to practice in a place where the teachers provide a format that allows us to access and explore our edge without feeling judged or putting ourselves in danger. The students in the class are equally important. It is hard to find a place of peace if you don’t feel comfortable and welcomed by the class.

Ultimately if we can find that type of environment we are able to let down some of our walls, to let go of the world outside we might find a way into our bodies. For a magical 60 or 90 minutes we might fully connect with the present moment and accept with compassion where we are while we get a little bit stronger. I don’t think the environment is a building, one person or one teacher but rather a community of people supporting each other.

I feel really privileged to have found IPY and all of those things without realizing it was what I was looking for. It is this environment that calls to me on my best and worst days making my practice one of the most consistent and healthy things I have ever done for myself.

If you feel it that you have found that community in IPY it is a great time to vote for us to be the #1 Studio in Northern Virginia!


February Meditation Challenge

Meditating with a mala

Meditating with a mala. Photo by James Martin.

For those of you who see me regularly, you might notice I am almost always wearing a mala around my wrist. What is the purpose of a mala? They are beautiful reminders to breathe, to meditate during down time, and to stay committed to the intention set for the day. My most recent use of the wrist mala is as follows: Sit in a comfortable position. Take a full inhale and a complete exhale for each bead present (21 for the wrist). It sounds easy, but for me it is not. I have not completed the mala yet! To keep my mind fully occupied on each breath for 21 breaths is an enormous challenge, and I have decided to give it a try each day at least once for the month of February.

Are you up for the challenge? You don’t need to have a mala to practice, and you could even tie 21 knots in a string. Can you complete 21 deep and purposeful breaths and stay engaged in what you are doing? Keep me posted!