When I took my first yoga class many years ago, my teacher was an older gentleman named Raj. he was then about 65 years of age, but his lean, muscular frame and spirit did not show it. In fact, the very first time I came to Raj’s house, his wife answered the door and led me to the backyard…where her husband was hanging upside down from a swing. Raj quickly and gracefully leapt to the ground, shook my hand, and gave me a most splendiferous grin. An incredible sense of peace came over me, and I knew I’d found someone who was going to be quite instrumental in the direction my life would take.
I decided to take private lessons with him, even though it was a time in my life when I could hardly afford it. I wanted desperately to learn everything this man could offer me, so I went into the study of yoga with intensity. My nature is to want to excel at everything I do——and that has been both my cure and my curse. During the first few classes with Raj, all I cared about was whether or not I was executing the poses properly. He’d strike a pose and gently ask me to execute it, while his lovely, soft, melodious voice reminded me to breathe and then stretch, breathe and stretch…I’d try desperately to imitate what he did, holding my breathe in my attempt to get it right, After all, wasn’t everything about getting it right? What if I looked ridiculous or didn’t breathe right or my leotard hiked up?
And as Raj noticed this, he came over and commented, “It’s not about the positions, Loretta. Let go and breathe, and it will come. Inhale, exhale. Be here now!”
I remember thinking that he was nuts. how could I ever learn anything by just breathing in and out? Letting go? How does a major control freak let go? I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. To me, the concept meant that I might fall into a big black hole and lose my identity. It sounded very weird. (Keep in mind that this was at least thirty years ago. We weren’t in the place we’re in now, where yoga has become a national pastime.) Of course, the point of Raj’s lesson was: Stop thinking about all the other stuff that gets in the way. But that’s an incredibly difficult thing to so. Especially in the world we live in now. What we have to realize is that until you learn to be more present, life will always be more complicated than it needs to be.