Hello dear ones,

I’ve been teaching for the past few weeks at a residential treatment facility. My students are women who are in a court-ordered rehab program. The program offers yoga classes twice a week which, like everything else in the program, are mandatory.

Class happens in the cafeteria, with all the tables and chairs folded up and stacked outside the doors. The women roll out their donated aqua mats onto the grimy floor. About half of the women lie on their mats through the whole class, waiting for the hour to end so they can go outside for one of their four scheduled smoke breaks. They all keep their socks on. Doors open and close; heads poke in during class. The fluorescent lights buzz overhead, and the constant murmur from the front office is occasionally punctuated by wild laughter or shouting.

This is no ashram.

Last week as we were settling in one of the students asked me,

“What’s the point of yoga?”

I was slightly startled but also a little tickled. She was so straightforward in the way she asked, and also completely neutral. We talked some about what “the point” of yoga might be, with me laying out some basic philosophy and them adding in their own interpretations. It quickly evolved into a conversation. Other questions started bubbling up.

“Is yoga good for back pain?”

“What about the chakras? What are they, exactly?”

“Does yoga help to balance the chakras?”

“I feel so frustrated in the poses. Is that normal?”

Most of the students have no experience with yoga, have never been to a yoga class, don’t know the protocol. They approach with such genuine curiosity. They have beginner’s mind. And it is so refreshing.

Most of you reading this have likely had years of exposure to yoga. There are “rules” about what happens in a yoga class. You know them, and most of the time, you follow them: Sit quietly until class starts. Practice in bare feet. Do the poses that the teacher is calling out. Don’t lay around on the floor until Savasana.

But this can limit us, because we’ll start to behave in the way we think is expected of us instead of the way that might help us grow.

What are the questions that have been rattling around in your brain about yoga that you’ve never asked? Is there some basic piece of information that you missed that you’ve been too embarrassed to admit? What IS the point of yoga?

I’d love to hear them! And I’ll try my best to answer them. Comment with the questions you’ve never asked and I’ll address them in future blog posts. With a beginner’s mind!

Much love,

Bear

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