Let me just say that I love to OM. This was not always the case; in fact I never closed yoga practice with an OM as a new teacher. When I first started teaching, I honestly didn’t know a lot about the tradition of the practice. I started teaching because my teacher kept not showing up. One day as we were waiting on our mats for someone to come and lead class a few students started to look to me, and them a few more. “What???” I said. “You teach stuff right, why not teach class today?” they said. Yoga was my safe haven. I went to class to be led, to tune in and rebuild my energy stores. I taught people all day long. It is said that sometimes one decision, one moment in time can change your life. This was that moment. “Ok, I will try.” And the rest is my personal history.
The Practice of Patience and Humility
At the moment I started teaching yoga, I knew I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t trained, I didn’t know enough, I wasn’t ready! What I did know was that I wanted to bring this practice to more people. I was a personal trainer/nutrition counselor for 10 years. I was in a gym 8 hours a day. I was listening to people’s problems all day long. Yoga was what helped me stay balanced and sane and it kicked my ass! I thought I was strong and fit but that first yoga class was a practice of humility. I was shaking and sweating and struggling AND thoroughly enjoying myself. After a few months, I started noticing that my body was changing too, for the better. I had worked out for years and never had I felt so good. That was unexpected. When I started teaching, I made a commitment to myself that I would only teach what I knew, I would be patient and keep learning, I would be honest and just do the best I could.
Preach What You Practice
I started teaching yoga in 1997. My yoga practice was really just scratching the surface of what yoga would become for me. At that time, I understood the physical side of things so that is what I focused on and that is what I taught. As the years have gone by, my yoga practice and understanding of the tradition and my teaching have all deepened. I didn’t OM back then because I didn’t understand it. I wanted to be honest and do what I did for a reason. I didn’t want to teach or practice something that didn’t feel right to me. Honesty or Satya, truth, is one of the Yamas, the first limb of the eight-limbed path of Patanjali. Satya means speaking your truth and being true to who you are and what you believe.
I now practice and teach OM regularly. I believe yoga is about our individual connection to our bodies and minds and spirits first and then a connection with all others later. It is like the ripples in the water created by a pebble. The practice of yoga ripples out from us in so many ways. I believe the sound of OM does that too. First you have the physical experience which for some is just as humbling as the practice of asana. How often do we vocalize like that with a group of people? Then, there is the sensation deep within the body and the sense of connection with all the others in the room. Then, just maybe that sound of balance and connection ripples out beyond the walls of the studio into the world. Yogic philosophy talks about OM being the sound of the universe and the sound that balances all the Chakras and stabilizes energy. What if it is just the representation of the moment at the end of class that we all feel just a little more open, connected and focused on the things that really matter? That just might be enough to make something happen.