I switched yoga studios last summer due to the kids’ schedules. Some of the teachers at Bikram Yoga Portsmouth already knew me, from the occasional classes I had taken there, but mostly from Bikram Yoga Seacoast in Salisbury Ma., where some of them also teach and where I began my practice. (I was also lucky enough to interview the fabulous Sara Curry, owner of Bikram Yoga Portsmouth).
One of my new teachers is Terry Warburton. I had taken class with Terry just once about two years ago. I remember that class fondly because it was a small one, so all the students got a lot of coaching. Terry kept calling me “Salisbury” in class when she’d correct me, because when I checked in she asked me if it was my first class and I told her I’d been doing Bikram yoga for a couple of years in Salisbury. “Straighten that leg, Salisbury,” she’d call over, “Show ’em how it’s done in Salisbury!”.
Terry’s been teaching Bikram yoga for over twenty years, so she doesn’t miss a lot. Any imprecise posture in a class that small and not only will she spot it, she’ll point it out to you, and advise the appropriate correction.
She can do that in a class of over 70 students too. You can’t hide. She’s a hawk, and she does not abide laziness. But she also gets it: we struggle. We don’t have to, but we do. She’s also taught me that sometimes if we’re going through something hard, try as we might to escape, it will follow us into the hot room. Where suddenly it’s damn hot, hotter than it’s ever been, and we can’t breathe, and can’t stand, and it takes everything we’ve got to just stay in the room.
Her nickname, by the way is T-Pain. I have to say, I don’t really get that. Yes, she expects a lot. But for me, it helps me relax. I show up ready to go for it. I know I will be pushed and I consent to it. And I am not offended by corrections or coaching. It feels kind to me, and it helps.
And now Terry’s given me the biggest gift of all: a cool nickname of my own. I like it because Salisbury Plain is where Stonehenge is, and I do love me a henge. I also like it because it pays tribute to the studio where I began my yoga practice.
Once after class she apologized to me for not remembering my real name. But not having a “real” name in the hot room is a blessing. It’s a lot like not having a self in there. Not having to be Susan means I can check my ego at the door. When I show up to class ready to let it all go, all of my expectations, my anxiety, my need to be perfect, I usually have a great class.
And what is a great class anyway? For a long time this year, it’s been such a struggle for me in there, that just showing up was the win. And of course, the landscape of my practice has changed again. I feel less like I’m hiking up hill and more like I have the capacity to move with the postures, not fight them so much. So lately, a great class is one in which I remember to breathe. In which I allow myself to relax and be present. When I stay aware of how much all the teachers care, how much they give of themselves to help us be there. When I focus on the incremental improvements I make. Funnily enough, when I focus on breath and calmness, no matter what, my postures and my endurance improve, but even more than that, my acceptance improves. I can feel myself releasing old, old feelings and illusions. I can understand, what a miracle we all are, how it’s only our minds that keep our hearts stuck.