I was teaching class yesterday at the Math and Engineering building on the UCLA campus (Boelter Hall). The class is held on the 8th floor of the building and is literally referred to at “The Penthouse.” It’s hardly a penthouse. It’s a meeting room on the roof. My first impression of the scene was one of “OMG” – I can’t teach yoga in this place. It’s gross.
Amazing how a group of men and women assembled to twice weekly practice yoga changes the atmosphere from an old classroom, designed as an after-thought decades ago to accommodate special lectures and classes, can morph into a really exciting yoga room.
What I should explain is that on the campus of UCLA most of the buildings host yoga classes once or twice a week to staff and faculty. I really expected that faculty would be the dominant group in attendance; to my surprise, my students in the buildings on campus are mostly administrative staff, researchers, and grad students. I teach in the medical (Semel Neurological Institute), the law school, math and engineering and CNsI (or the California Nanosystems Institute). I can truly say I have the most intelligent, tenacious, dedicated students that any yoga teacher can imagine. I also teach at the John Wooden center and those students and some faculty are also truly incredible beings.
We are at the end of our room booking at Boelter Hall and there was a moment when no one was in charge of the yoga program. I announced this to the group last week and asked if someone could step forward and be in charge of booking The Penthouse. The next class, as I put the students in resting pose, I saw one of my students, a woman in her late 40’s, early 50’s, walking off of the elevator. She had some papers in her hand. I walked outside on the roof to meet her. Julie had taken care of everything for us. She booked The Penthouse until September, listed the dates we were not going to be able to be in the room (we practice yoga on the room outside in these cases in the glorious summer days of August), and told me not to worry about a thing.
“You’re amazing,” I said to Julie. “Thank you for your efforts.”
“Are you kidding, Joan?” she retorted. “Yoga has saved my life. It’s more important for me to be in yoga class than anywhere in my life. I’m a cancer survivor and now I have some fibroids in my body and yoga is the saving grace. When I told my doctor I practice yoga, he gasped. I told him never you mind. Yoga is the antidote to my cancer and whatever is in my body.” Then she added, “I’m going to cry now.”
I hugged her (tears in my eyes) and felt that my yoga bond with my students was the most precious gift after my children and grandchildren that life has given me. Julie’s story is just one story in my yoga world. I have heard many stories like that. One woman in my class was so resistant and stiff when she entered my class that I thought she wouldn’t come back after her first class. She has come to class religiously ever since. She jokes with me, she teases me, she tells me I’m cruel, heartless, then laughs and continues with her challenging body movements. She is my angel in class; she is the heartbeat; she is why yoga exists for us.
As we yoginis and yogis move through our resistant minds and bodies, as we practice non-judgement and non-attachment, we move through our lives with grace and divineness. We transcend our expectations, we discover there is continued personal growth; and we are amazed by our resilient natures and our consistency and dedication to our open heart practice.