One of my favorite teachers, Emmy Cleaves, is recognized as an icon in the Bikram Community. Emmy Cleaves is in her late 80’s and still teaches the beginning Bikram Yoga series as well as leads advanced class in Los Angeles often twice a week. Her style of teaching includes a tremendous amount of medical knowledge and an in depth understanding of the human body as it relates to the yoga poses we practice. She teaches from the back of the room and can often be found sneaking up on you with a poke of a finger that changes your posture profoundly… and it always happens just when you think you’ve mastered the pose. She doesn’t miss a beat!
Her class is interlaced with tons of tiny gems that when captured, will forever change your life. One thing she can be heard saying is “the yoga is innocent.” While in the moment, this saying helps us get through perhaps an extra tough class or posture… upon further reflection I have found so much more to this saying.
Since beginning my practice in 2001 at just 21 years old and nearing the end of my college days, this yoga has served as a staple in my life. There have been many classes and moments throughout my years of practice that have brought me to tears of both joy and frustration. There have been days where I have spent the entire 90 minutes of a class hating the class, postures, teacher, heat, etc.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, on these occasions I hear Emmy in my head reminding me, “The yoga is Innocent.” But what does this really mean?
When I look back at my 13 years of practice I can honestly say that my yoga practice has always been an expression of where I am in my life. When I have struggled with anger… the challenge of the poses has been a way for me to push through it. When I have felt insecure… the mirror has reflected this back to me and sometimes made looking at myself for 90 minutes excruciating. In moments of sadness… the postures have felt so heavy and challenging. And through moments of joy… the class seems to fly by and I feel super human.
So my humble advice to anyone finding a particular “good” or “bad” in class, do your very best to let it go. The yoga is innocent. Do not blame the yoga. But most of all, do not even blame yourself. You are only human and to go through the emotional and physical ups and downs is a part of our living. Use your practice as a time to reflect, let go, enjoy, move on, heal and mostly as a time to accept yourself, as you are… because YOU ARE truly beautiful.