finding your placeBy Kathryn Boland

We hear and read a lot about finding your place. Life has shown me that there are some places where I truly belong, and other places where staying around wouldn’t serve others or me. Yoga is a practice that lends itself to this finding of our right places, attuned as it is to the physical (space), mental (thoughts), and emotional (feelings). As yoga teachers and practitioners, coming back to this offering of yoga can help us when we might be struggling in a certain setting – a class we’re teaching, a certain studio, or with a certain colleague or professional.

It can be difficult to search elsewhere when we determine that where we are isn’t our right place, realities of life and limited resources (time, money, transportation abilities, et cetera) being what they can be. Finding your place can make all the difference, however, for you and those you serve. Releasing from where you are can be easier with remembering that. It can also help to remember that your place is out there – if it isn’t where you presently are – just as it is for everyone!

For me personally, this dynamic played out with a private yoga studio (I will spare name and place details to respect the confidentiality of involved parties) where I was a “work-exchange” student (free classes in exchange for a set number of hours worked). The studio caters to middle and upper class clientele, with somewhat high-class prices and “boutique” selling yoga apparel with items up to $500.00. I began performing my work-exchange duties diligently, and the studio owner seemed pleased with my work – initially. It felt great to take classes consistently, money no longer an issue. Then certain tensions arose, with mishaps of my own and miscommunication of all involved individuals.

As one aspect of that, I found it difficult to bounce back and forth between retail, class registration, and cleaning duties. Feeling scattered as a result led me to make careless mistakes. I am also a work-exchange student at a dance studio, and my duties are all in the realm of cleaning – where I can stay focused on certain tasks until I successfully complete them. I learned that is simply how my brain works, how I more effectively function, the hard way – through seeing how my performance suffers when I have to juggle many tasks at once. I accept that is who I am, though I acknowledge that it is most likely beneficial to expand growth areas of mine such as that.

Yoga helps us to learn ourselves in those ways – such as if we prefer the challenges of creative and fast-moving sequences or executing slower, perhaps simpler series of asanas. Yoga’s principles of ahisma (nonviolence, including that upon ourselves) and satya (truthfulness, even when it comes to self-evaluation) can help us to keep our strengths and growth areas in perspective, and not beat ourselves up over the former.

As I continued to take classes at that studio, I more clearly saw how there was a view of yoga there that didn’t seem to leave room for other approaches. For instance, while taking class from the director herself, I felt energized and compelled to go up into Shoulderstand. She was guiding us students through a process of getting up there with a prop’s assistance. She came over and, somewhat aggressively – in my view – said that I needed to “slow down”. Yes, perhaps I could have been more mindful and listened more carefully to her instructions. I own that shortcoming on my part. On the other hand, from a teacher’s perspective and my feelings about the exchange aside, I don’t think that it’s appropriate to speak to a student in that tone – under any circumstances.

I added that comment to other comments from her that I interpreted as disrespectful, and to the general “boutique” atmosphere of the studio, to determine that this studio was not my right place. I also considered that the studio was an hour and a half commute for me (causing me to be late on a few occasions, which didn’t help the frazzled matters I’ve described). In such situations, I think that it’s always important to gather the facts – and from that have a fuller picture of all available options – before taking any actions that we might regret. I remembered that there is a studio a mere ten minutes (by public transportation) from my apartment, with discounted classes. I re-referenced the studio’s website and its schedule, and did some rough mental budgeting and personal scheduling to evaluate if it would work.

I like to think that yoga asana helps us to thus manage evaluating multiple factors that impact a complete whole – such as how many interacting muscular, skeletal, and respiratory factors influence the overall feeling of a pose. Yoga’s meditative work can help us to re-focus the mind on our ongoing tasks and come to Peace with a certain decision once we’ve made it. Yes, I’ve learned that yo-yo multitasking can be difficult for me, but I believe that those skills yoga has helped me to build can help me to process important decisions such as these when they emerge.

The great thing about yoga is that is what I’ve gained from it (among other gifts), but it might have very well granted something different to each of you readers. Yoga can help us build upon our strengths, and develop areas that aren’t as strong for us, because it is malleable enough to be a different practice for each person. That is why there is a different place for each of us, in our yoga practice/instruction and otherwise. Yoga can also help us to find that place and stay there.

In the end, I emailed the studio instructor and explained how I felt the studio isn’t the right place for me. As it’s never wise to burn bridges, I kept things objective and cordial. I gave some of the practical reasoning I’ve given here, and also an additional aspect about who I am as an instructor and practitioner; I explained how I’m passionate about expanding yoga to grace those who most often won’t have the opportunities to experience it, but could most likely benefit from it the most (such as low-income, at-risk youth and hospitalized individuals) – rather than an elite clientele. I offered to work two more shifts, and then I would end my work there. She thanked me for the work I did while there, and I returned her gratitude for all that I learned as a practitioner (and also as an instructor, though I never taught there) during that time.

Reflecting on the situation in hindsight, I have further gratitude for what it taught me about myself and what yoga has contributed to that person. I know now more about the nature of my right place. Yoga also helped me to find it. I’m still taking discounted classes at that studio much nearer to my home, and loving them. I will audition to be an instructor there when auditions are held in coming months. I feel at home at there – with all types of people around to laugh, joke, and practice together. I wish for all you dear readers to find your right place. I welcome your views and stories about doing so, in whatever you might be open to sharing – so please do comment below! Om Shanti!

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