The Last Class

I taught my last class at Just Be on Sunday.

It’s something that seemed really far off and distant right up until the morning it happened. Months and months ago, before I even graduated from high school, I sat down in a meeting where they asked me, “When will you be teaching your last class?”

Until that moment, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I’d be really leaving Just Be. Sure, I’d gone through the whole process of picking a school, committing, making housing arrangements…but it all felt so disconnected from the life I was currently living. It felt like planning a fake life, a separate life, a life that was more akin to a vision board than an outline for the next few years of my existence. Suddenly, I was being forced to commit to an end.

“Uhm, I move in to school on the 17th,” I said, scrolling through my phone to find a date I hadn’t even considered looking up yet, it felt so far away, “So I guess…the 11th? Of September?”

And so it was marked on the calendar: “Maris’s Last Class.” The class where I’d quiet down my teaching schedule, shift my focus from being a teacher to being a student, begin my sabbatical from a passion I’d just begun to live. But at the time, it was just that: a date on a calendar. It loomed somewhere in the distance the entire summer, an inevitable end that loomed in the back of my mind incessantly but quietly. Every time it would bubble to the surface I would shove it back into a corner to be dealt with later, “when the time came.”

And then Sunday, I was forced to realize that the time had come.

I’d put together a playlist- just like every other week– thrown together a flow in my head-just like every other week- and had a rough idea of what my theming and message would be, but knew it would inevitably change in the moment when something more relevant and raw came up- just like every other week. And yet this felt different. I felt somewhat somber as I walked into the studio, threw on some music, and started running around handing out blocks and playing mat tetris to fit everyone in. Class was packed: so many people had made an effort to come take my class one last time, a gift I didn’t take for granted for a single second.

When it was time to start class, I opened with the same line I use every time: “Has anyone never taken my class before?” Just to get a gauge of how familiar the class would be with my cuing and my personal interpretation of Vinyasa. One woman raised her hand.

“Hi!” I said, instinctively, “This is my last class!”

The room laughed, because it was funny, the idea of them accidentally wandering into a class that felt like a final goodbye to the rest of us. I laughed, too, but it still made me sad for a moment. It all suddenly felt real, the idea of moving. The idea of leaving. The idea of not teaching. I could see the pages on the calendar being torn off in my mind’s eye, the sudden jump in time from that meeting months ago to this now very real date in the future.

That class was special to me. It felt distinctly me- the music, the postures, the flowing. There were twists and tricky balances and room to play with inversions and arm balances. The energy of the class was more than I could have ever asked for, with everyone being willing, open, and energetic. At the apex of the class, where everyone dropped from a crazy final flow of traditional half moon and revolved half moon into a shaking final high plank, I threw my hands in the air and yelled out over the music, “Whatever it is that you want, call it in now!”

With a collective sigh as the music faded, the class collapsed down onto their mats, covered in sweat, their eyes closed and their bodies tired. I padded around the room, reveling in the stillness that had been born from the heat and movement and noise just moments before. This was always my favorite part of class- the part where I watched the bodies recover from their hard work, and slip into quiet bliss. It’s at this point, where the body has been exhausted, that the mind opens.

It’s here that I speak.

“Life can get really difficult.” I said, my voice piercing the silence in the room, “It can get twisted and off-kilter and thrown upside down.”

I was crouched down low now, my palms on the floor and my eyes scanning across the sea of mats. I felt simultaneously very tiny and very large.

“And when it does, it’s really easy to ask why it’s happening to us. Why things have to be so hard, why they have to be so twisted and challenging.” I paused, then continued, “But in reality, these things aren’t happening to us, they’re happening for us.”

“Life is remarkably similar to a yoga class. We push through the hard times and the challenging times for this moment, right here, this bliss where all is still and the mind is open.” I stood up, stepping my way over the bodies and mats and quietly finding my way to a pole in the middle of the room that I held onto as I spoke, “We create and release tension- both in our muscles and in our lives. We let go of anxieties and fears and traumas and doubts that get in the way of our growth, of our expansion.”

“Yoga is the practice of creating new space. Of letting go of what we no longer need so that we can fill ourselves up with all it is that we want. It’s here, at the end of the effort, that we can call in what it is that we want. That we can fill in all the space we created with what it is that will truly serve us. That we can be in a space of creation.”

“Whatever it is that you want,” I said, slowing turning in a semi-circle as I scanned the room, “Call it in now.”

All was still. I lingered in the silence, hoping that everything I was pouring out was soaking in. It was a message, straight from my heart and out of my lips and onto their mats, that was something I needed to hear just as much as I felt they did. It felt like an open letter to the world, myself included. A letter that I needed to receive just six days before I picked up my life and moved to Santa Cruz.

Because I’ve been feeling twisted up and off-balance and upside down recently. I’ve felt like my entire life is uncertain and unscripted and unnecessarily difficult. I’ve felt like things are happening to me instead of for me. I’ve felt like I can’t be in a space of creation because my life is being thrown into a whirlpool of the unknown, like my life and current passions are being put on hold for the time being while I become uprooted from all that I love.

But as I watched this final class evolve, I was reminded that our practices are mirrors to our lives in the truest sense. When I’m struggling in a chair pose that feels endless and unnecessarily difficult, I know it’s for the bliss that comes after: the sense of accomplishment at the end, the final drop into savasana when it’s all worth it. Life isn’t so different from the shapes and postures that have, ultimately, changed my life over the past few years. In fact, it’s the most similar replica I could ever find, just on such a small scale that the lessons become clearer far faster than they do in our lives off of the mat. Instead of looking back years later and observing the lesson, we can see it the moment we exit a pose. It’s how growth and evolution is worked right into the practice so beautifully and effortlessly.

This move, this change in routine and loss of my current one, is simply an asana. It’s a way to get purposely thrown off-balance and tossed upside down in order to become stronger, to get all twisted up in order to create more space, to challenge myself in new ways in order to enter into a space of creation.

The time has come to put in the work. To push myself to find a new edge so that I can expand and become more: more confident, more empowered, more understanding, more me.

And soon, the time will come for me to call in whatever it is that I need.

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