Warrior to a Fault: A Teaching Moment

A real life Yogi.
I got home late yesterday evening at about 8:30 PM after a long day.  I sat down on the couch with my faithful dog Yogi and my husband. It was a bitterly cold day yesterday at -52 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. 

 In Saskatchewan, we always add the wind chill factor because it accurately describes how cold it really is.  Yesterday without the wind, it was -40 degrees Celsius.  There were warnings about travel and skin exposure and risk of skin freezing in less than 5 minutes.  

Let me just say, if you are reading this and you are living in a balmy climate, that is really really cold.  The upside is we get to wear a lot of fashionable layers of clothes, thigh high boots, and Sorels.  Fur hats are a must here in Saskatchewan, and yet we trudge on, fearlessly facing the freezing temperatures that many might imagine as "hell freezing over." 

We lit a wood burning fire and turned on the television while my dog fell asleep with his belly facing the fire and my husband watching yet another incarnation of Conan the Barbarian. 

I sat down to plan my yoga classes for the week.  I was feeling agitated.  Partly because it has been a long cold snap,  partly because it was a long and challenging day for me, and partly because I still had work to do.  I was tweeting with a fellow yogi about life, and she said, we are true warriors because we persevere and we accomplish what we set out to.  

We are warriors here in Saskatchewan.  We live our lives despite unbelievably cold and adverse conditions.  We do not let things like a hell freezing over interfere with our quest.  

My yoga practice is inspired by discovery-based movement that is not restricted to goals.  In my classes, I challenge my students to abandon their goals and discover what's possible.  Each week I challenge them with a crazy pose that is decidedly challenging for even the most practiced yogi in the class.  

My discovery is that people come to life when you let them know they don't have to be some body's something.  That they have nothing to prove.  That yoga is not what we think it looks like in a book, it is our bodies in motion.  That we are the essence of yoga in our very being. 

Today, our focus was Warriors to a Fault, because we tend to preserver here in the land under the sun; we tend to hang on when we should let go. We tend to hunker down. We tend to miss the beauty of a perfect white horizon that meets an blue sky so clear,  it deserves to be gazed upon with wonder. 

OK, so back to yoga.  Today the practice was Warrior inspired, which included a gentle 6 minute long cat/cow sequence followed by a 'threading the needle' twist.  As I looked out upon the class of 26 warriors who had braved the cold to practice, I could see the release and the freedom as they folded into the warm floor. The heat from the floor was making its way into our bodies and we were being warmed by breath and gentle movement and a blissfully hot environment that is a true oasis in this cold locked land that we inhabit. 

We moved through sun salutations Surya Namaskara A and B, slowly and purposefully, with Pink Floyd's "Shine on you Crazy Diamond" playing in the background.  

The Warrior Sequence travelled through mountain pose, crescent lunge, Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior 2, Extended Angle, Warrior 2, Warrior 1, Crescent Lunge and into Chair pose, before rising into mountain pose, arms stretched upward, finger tips reaching for the sun.  With each pass, we discovered new levels to explore in each posture, that included twists, binds and folds, leading up to the great fold of the day, Marichyasana.  

As a teacher, watching the warriors move through the postures together, I was inspired by their soft determination, and their commitment to the moment. It truly was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.