It’s funny, the things that stick in the sense memory about a place: the smell, the light, a feeling in the gut that was present on the last visit. The elements that stand out as having changed are also remarkable: a new coffee table, artwork, people.
Yesterday evening I returned to a place that truly was an old haunt. For several years I was both a regular student and teacher at the Jivamukti Yoga Centre in London which meant that I was there practicing or teaching daily. Having parted ways over two years ago, I left with the opinion based on my experiences that those running the studio were not honest or kind people. It seemed ironic to experience this from a yoga studio as these were the very things that brought me to the practice to begin with.There are many reasons, factual and emotional, why I came to this conclusion. Out of respect for my teachers who often reiterate “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it”, I opted to walk away from the centre without closure, returning only a handful of times since. What a better time to visit during this themed month of October?
I must admit, on the journey to the studio, I felt myself curling away from the world outside, as if a protective shell was sealing the vulnerable aspect of myself from the situation I was about to encounter. After all, I had been traumatized by the events leading up to my departure in 2010. In fairness to the studio, I had endured a lot in my personal life that year: pregnancy, losing a third of blood in my body leading to a blood transfusion, emergency liver surgery leading to throat trauma, a pre-term delivery, vitamin A deficiency leading to night blindness, blood poisoning leading to encephalopathy…I definitely had lived through better years. It made it all the more devastating that when going through this personal hardship, the yoga studio that played a major role in my life as my place of employment and also my place of spiritual practice was not only unsympathetic, but dishonest with me.
Years later, walking through the doorway, despite the history and even having known roughly a quarter of the people present, I felt like I was entering as a stranger. As I listened to the conversation around me I heard familiar voices and stories, but I chose to bypass whatever small talk I could; opting instead to simply take in the experience of being in a new place that I used to know so well.
It wasn’t until the class began that I felt I was in a space that I could open up into and breathe freely. As the class got underway, I was able to separate the studio from the practice and see that while the studio space was unfamiliar, the practice wasn’t. The theme was well articulated and in my opinion was a solid Jivamukti class taught by one of the most seasoned teachers of the method. Despite this, the class didn’t make my heart sing the way a yoga class sometimes does. A dear teacher used to say that the practice is merely a reflection of yourself; and maybe it was simply that my heart wasn’t 100% available to the practice due to the circumstances. Whatever the reason, what is apparent to me is that I have grown in different ways than the framework of the yoga studio where I used to practice so frequently; ways that have given me the space to heal, to grow and to strengthen in my yoga practice and as a person.
Over the past couple of years I have explored many methods of yoga outside of the Jivamukti practice, some resonating with me, some not. I also understand that the places that resonate with me now may not in a few years time. My perspective of the world is constantly challenging me in the face of ever-present change to stay awake. I have found joy in being open to this transience; it has contributed to who I am now and who I might become.
The main benefit of the visit to the studio is that it enabled me to revisit an emotional holding pattern that no longer suits me. There are always at least two sides to every story, and whatever happened in the past doesn’t hold any bearing to who I am at present. In fact, leaving the studio at that time in my life freed me to explore other aspects of myself and my practice.
While those running the studio were not present last evening, I no longer as see them as unkind; I see them as human. I can only hope that they have grown and changed in the positive ways that I have, and also learned something about themselves in the meantime. In retrospect, I genuinely feel blessed to have had these experiences that have added dimensionality to my life. I’m also so eternally grateful to all the of the teachers I have met along my path; each and every one has been extremely generous in shining a light on what it means to be human. Above all, we all come from the same place and we are all doing the very best we can at any given time to make our way back to that place, knowingly or not.
Next up, trick or treat? I was thinking I’d treat myself…