This morning I drove to the studio and was the first one there despite the fact that it was already 6:10 AM and we usually begin by 6:15.
I hurried in, turned on the lights in the lounge, unlocked the studio, lit the candle, and only then went back and took off my jacket.
Still, no one came.
I gathered my yoga things and placed them within easy reach: mat, blanket, pranayama pillow and eye bag for savasana, zafu and shawl for meditation, and tissues.
After all this prep, still no one had come. I resigned myself to a “practice alone” day. Usually we don’t practice to music but since there was no one there to consult or object, I turned on The Best of Wah!, as a soft, accompanying presence.
The morning was dark. I dimmed the studio lights to a soft yellow so that the candle flame was the brightest light in the room. I stepped on my mat, dispensed with the formal Invocation in Sanskrit in favor of my own prayer, and began.
Two sun salutations into my practice, Christine arrived. I smiled at her, but kept going. The practice had already begun for me and there was no going back.
Until Christine walked in, I didn’t realize that I had already decided on certain things.
The first was that I was not going to count my breaths (there is usually a 5- breath count in each posture). I was just going to breathe my breaths until it felt like “enough.”
I also wasn’t going to be a slave to the sequence. If I forgot a pose, or did a few out of order, or skipped some variations, that was how it was going to be.
The rigid “form” of the practice was going to have to bend to me this morning; it was going to have to be much more elastic and forgiving. I was going to do what I always tell my students to do, but rarely do myself, and that is: Let my body drive.
For a candle’s flicker of a moment I wondered if the music was annoying Christine and I toyed with walking over and turning it off—but didn’t.
No. I wanted the music. It was creating a soft, reverential feeling in me. It felt like a bhakti practice, this yoga, and oh did I ever need it after all the hard yoga I had been practicing in the past few days.
Christine rolled out her mat and practiced alongside me. At one point I noticed that she too had veered “off-script” and was improvising a practice for herself, too—the practice she needed, I assumed.
I was just beginning the seated poses when I noticed that Christine was going into the last three finishing postures. I was still doing vinyasas while she lay next to me, in savasana.
When I started Janu Sirsasana she quietly left the room, but not before I blew her a kiss, and she blew one back.
I finished out what my body needed to do then I sat on my cushion for quite a while: watching thoughts, breathing breaths, listening to the ventilation system roar in the room, and when that fell silent, I listened to the traffic, and the trucks grinding through their gears out on 15.
I thought of other times when I had sat just like this, alone, peaceful, holding the space for anyone who might want to come and do something like I had just done.
I practiced like this, alone, for the better part of 2 years before others came.
I thought about Sunday afternoons when Rick and I would sit together—he, facing the window; me, facing the wall.
As I put my jacket on, and shut the lights and dowsed the candle and locked the door, I thought about the words: Holding the Space.
The first time I heard them was in my first YTT. It was explained to me that “holding the space” was what I, as a yoga teacher, “did” while my students were in savasana.
I held the space. I safeguarded it from marauders, from anything that might threaten its peace or sanctity.
But now, as I’ve been reflecting on it, I know it’s much more than that.
This morning, whether or not anybody came, I was holding space for the possibility of practice. Even though the usual people did not come, they know that they could have and that’s why I do what I do. That’s why MSY is here. MSY is “held space.” And I am the holder of that space.
I am the un-locker of the door, the turner-on of the lights, and the one who lights the candle and breathes for you, even when you don’t come. I hold this space for you, until you can.