I am fortunate to live not-very-far from a fabulous Iyengar yoga studio. In fact, I am incredibly fortunate. The teaching there is extraordinarily good. I go there a lot to practise. A few people have wondered why I go to the studio to practise – I mean, can’t I do it by myself at home? And they are right. I could now, I guess. But I go there because once I walk in, I practise being absent. Well, not totally absent, as in away-with-the-faeries, or I’ve-had-a-lobotomy absent. But without judgement. And without ego.
I didn’t start yoga to be able to do this. I started it because I had a sore back. And then I got incredibly hooked on the precise learning that was required of me in classes. I liked that, as it was what I do as a cellist, and as a teacher. And although I found it frightening, I thought that doing something that took me out of my comfort zone regularly would make me a more empathetic teacher. (It has, by the way.)
In the studio, from the top down, there is no judgement from any of the teachers. They are there to guide you – to push you a little some days, to nurture you on other days, and to make you smile. There is no ‘wrong’. There is no ‘try harder’. There is just instruction with fairness (and kindness). And when I realised that, it was a huge relief. One day I went to practise after a huge day of rehearsals. I felt like I had nothing left within me. Essence-of-Rachel was all used up. And I practised without comparing me to anyone. I was completely internal.
What a revelation that was.
We don’t do this, much. Well, at least I don’t. I look at people – I see what they are wearing. Do I like it? Would I wear that? I listen to what they are saying – do I agree? Do I want to talk to them more? I read books, or listen to music – do I like this writer or performer? I judge and compare. I don’t think this is wrong. I was also brought up in a competitive learning environment. I knew who was at the top of the class. I wanted to get a distinction in cello recitals. This judgement is good in a way – it makes me discerning and hard-working. I learn from myself by judging my actions.
But sometimes NOT judging is excellent. And there’s a time in one’s practise as a musician where you need to stop judging, and start creating. And take risks. And do it without ego. To be absent.
And I have learned that from my yoga teachers. And I practise it when I go there and listen to them in the beautiful space that is the yoga studio.
And I thank them, with all my soul. It’s a relief.