When I posted on FaceBook that I was writing about how yoga is like pizza, several friends left me some very funny comments; “because even when it’s bad it’s good…because it’s stretchy…because you can bend it into interesting shapes.” One friend wrote, “I think I’d be saying Yummmmmmm instead of Ommmmmm.”
For me, the similarity is about the ingredients.
Whenever I’m trying a new pizza place, I order a simple cheese pizza. I may peruse the menu to see what other ingredients and combinations they serve, but my first pizza is always their most basic offering. This way I can focus on the foundation of any good pizza- the crust, the sauce and the cheese. If a cheese pizza isn’t good, there’s no point in adding extra toppings.
I’m using this same philosophy as I choose my new yoga studio. Now that I have a car, I’m checking out two different places that offer a variety of classes. There’s gentle yoga, yin yoga, morning yoga and yoga flow. But I chose to begin with a gentle/basic class last Friday morning.
Even though I’ve been practicing yoga for more than seven years, I chose this beginner’s class for the same reason that I choose a simple cheese pizza- so that I can focus on the soul of the studio. What does the teacher share as the basic foundations of a yoga practice? How does the staff interact with a new, beginning student? How do I feel in the space with my classmates?
For me, yoga is more than just an exercise class. Yoga is community. It is connection, with my own body and with those sharing their practice with me. It matters less to me about the extras and the frills a space may offer, and more about the intentions and the energies of the people practicing together.
I had found this at Desert Song Yoga in Phoenix, and I knew that this is where I can connect with new people here in California.
The Yoga Center of Morro Bay is in a small building, just a single 12 x 20 room with a small secondary space where you enter that is lined with cubbyholes for your shoes, and bins for mats, bolsters and foam blocks. There is no office or receptionist, just a simple wooden box labeled “donations.”
I signed in, filled out a form with my name, yoga experience and in case of emergency person. Jennifer, the teacher, was slender, maybe thirty, with a gentle voice and a wide smile. I set up my mat, blanket and laid down to do my usual relaxation and grounding before class began.
We started in a seated position, immediately stretching our hips. I was expecting to be led through a little more relaxation and grounding, then open the class with a community om. Because that’s how we’ve always done it in my old yoga class. And for a short moment I fell into a place of judgment, that this wasn’t going to be a good class because it was different.
And this is another way that yoga is like pizza.
When I’m trying a new pizza, even though I am only sampling a simple pizza, I am probably comparing it to what I already know. Is the sauce as sweet as Mama Mia’s, is the crust as thick as Red Devil’s. We humans can’t help but compare things to what we already know. But in that comparison we stumble into expectations. And then we aren’t able to appreciate the flavors presented to us because it’s not what we’re used to.
I said a quiet om to myself and eased into my breath, trying the new way the teacher was explaining to breathe into my belly and pull up and back with my breath. I moved through the poses, slow and present, even crying a few times as my body released fears, expectations and opened to being in this new space.
And when I fell back into surprise and judgment when the teacher didn’t guide us into finding mountain pose before we attempted to balance in tree pose, I realized that I could guide myself, because that’s what my teachers have taught me.
Learning something new, trying new things, requires us to let go of what we already know, and, at the same time, bring our experiences with us, but without judgment or expectation. It’s a tricky balancing act, but, it can be delicious.
How do you approach new things? Please share your own story of trying something new by clicking on the comments below.