Reaffirming the need for compassion.

by guest blogger Caroline Young, freelance journalist and yoga instructor

While I was slowly (and quite reluctantly) wrapping up a three-month European journey, I was remembering how much I needed yoga in my life again. I had gotten swept up in every distraction possible: wonderful food & wine, amazing and interesting people from around the world. But an organic farm–where I worked in exchange for food and shelter– brought me back to my center. I left there feeling refreshed and ready to continue my practice when I reached my next stop– Madrid.

It was quite refreshing there, because it was the first time I was not staying in a hostel, and I could simply roll out of my bed and onto the floor, and do a morning practice right then and there in my pajamas. It was just like being at my place back in Florida, or in Georgia. No one around to wonder what that weird girl is doing upside down on the floor half-dressed. Just, me, myself and I… and some yoga. Ah, how glorious. But, again, I was craving some community in my practice.

So I narrowed my Madrid yoga studio search down to one seemingly popular place with a good reputation—simply called, “City Yoga.” I walked the 1.5 mile walk to a morning Iyengar class. Although I took an Iyengar class in Siena (Italy), it was completely different.

First of all, this time, no one spoke English. As soon as the woman teaching the class learned I was American, she seemed really nervous. She asked for my name at the beginning and said it about 50 times over the course of the 90 minute class. She would ask, “Carolina, Carolina, okay, okay?”

She was thoughtful to worry about me knowing what was going on, but I felt guilty in a way… I really just wanted to say, “Hey! It’s okay… it’s yoga, I can just look at you and figure it out… Plus, my Spanish is not too pathetic!” But she was really determined to make sure I was OKAY and I was doing everything right. She was probably the most compassionate yoga teacher I’ve ever had. One man taking the class had decent English as well and took it upon himself to translate anything to me that may seem the slightest bit confusing. Again, I felt a sense of guilt for taking away from his practice, but it really did not seem to phase him the least bit.

I went back another time… this time, my mom was in town. And they were the same way with her… went completely out of the way to make her feel comfortable and made sure she knew exactly what was going on. The class was more relaxing than anything. We worked a lot on holding poses for a longer time (which is typical of Iyengar) and it made me sore in places I had forgotten existed on my body, which, to me, is a great thing!

But the main thing that sticks out to me about this studio and my practice here can be summed up in one word: Compassion. After my waves of guilt passed and I allowed myself to simply be grateful for my fellow yogis’ concerns and genuine interest and want in helping me, I thought… “This is what Yoga is really all about.” It’s about making sure that we all know we are a part of something much bigger than our little selves… our little (or big) egos. We are all here together, and we all need each other’s help, whether we would like to admit it or not, it’s the raw truth. I have trouble admitting this to myself, and to others—a lot.

Once we stop feeling bad about needing and/or asking for help, we can begin to realize that there is nothing wrong with a little guidance… especially if it is given to us by those who truly want to give it…. No strings attached.

So, going into this new year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is going to be — stop being so hard on yourself — no one said you had to go through anything alone, especially if you know having someone else there to guide you a bit would help– Feeling guilt for being helped is a waste of energy. Make sure to be there for others, especially when they are stubborn just like you… They probably need it more than they know.

Yoga is not just about showing up for ourselves, going inward and working through our own crap to become stronger and grounded. But it is also about showing up for the people around us. They need you just as much as we need ourselves.

Practice compassion for yourself and for everyone else- including strangers. We are all here in this world together. We might as well act like it.

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