November 2020 Newsletter Contribution
A Year at the Yoga Farm: My Yoga Journey
by Beth Bentley
I wanted to run away to a Yoga Farm last year. It was a ridiculous idea, because I viewed yoga as a form of torture. However, life had become so stressful that the idea of rising with the roosters to gather eggs and muck stalls between required yoga classes seemed a preferable escape.
To reality check my fantasy, I began an experiment. I pretended that Beloved World Yoga (BWY) was a Yoga Farm requiring me to take a class every day for a week.
In my first class, I started to panic. The teacher described child’s pose as a place to rest at any time in the practice. How could I rest when the sensation of my belly squashing against my knees made me feel like I was suffocating? My teacher came to the rescue by offering a block to place under my forehead. I was able to breathe and enjoy the break I needed. I used this as a metaphor off the mat. What might help me to breathe through a difficult situation? How might I give myself a break?
After a week of classes, I learned that running away to class for an hour made it easier to deal with everything stressing me out at home. I’d been focusing so much on helping others who were resisting help that I’d neglected my own well-being. Taking a breathing break while on the mat helped me to extend compassion to myself off the mat.
I extended my experiment by another week. Although moving my larger-framed body through contortions in class was challenging, each teacher said the movements were a tool to quiet the mind. Creating a specific shape became less important than observing my breath and my body’s sensations as I moved. I was skeptical, but it gave me an out. I didn’t have to beat myself up if I couldn’t do what the teacher demonstrated. The concentration it took to avoid falling over as I attempted a pose distracted my Type A monkey mind enough to calm it down. I liked how I felt after class.
As I added more weeks to my Yoga Farm experiment, I started to meet my classmates. With my glasses off during practice and eyes closed in concentration, I had assumed everyone else had a perfect yoga body. I now realized no one fit the stereotype. As we connected after class, my eyes opened to the diversity within the BWY community. I started to crave my time with the community of teachers and students at the BWY Yoga Farm.
The studio posted flyers for its Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) Program. Inspired by my Yoga Farm experiment, I wanted to deepen my practice. Elsewhere I might have been discouraged to do so, but at BWY I wasn’t too old, stiff or out of shape to start right where I was to learn how to share yoga’s benefits with others.
I looked forward to our sessions together and even all the homework. Well, not all the homework. The assignment I just couldn’t do was to practice at home on my own. While I enjoyed practicing with my yoga community of teachers and students, I couldn’t seem to unroll my mat on my own.
And then the pandemic struck.
The studio had to close, and YTT was put on hiatus. I still wanted to follow my self-created Yoga Farm rules, but how could I run away from home to the Yoga Farm if the Yoga Farm had to be in my home?
My first attempt at home practice lasted only 10 minutes, but nine days after the studio closed, I resumed a daily practice using online pre-recorded classes. I missed chatting after class, but it was as if my BWY community was with me when I closed my eyes to breathe in each pose.
Nonetheless, I was ecstatic when BWY opened its virtual studio. Even if we weren’t physically together, I enjoyed once again being able to practice with the BWY community and complete YTT.
It’s now been a year since I began my Yoga Farm experiment. As a bonus, I never even had to rise with the roosters to gather eggs or muck stalls. Instead, I metaphorically gathered insight into better ways to cope with stress and cleared away muck that no longer served me. It has enabled me to cope with the stressors that led me to embark on my experiment as well as ride out the waves of emotion arising during this turbulent time.
I’m overflowing with gratitude for my beloved community of teachers, students, YTT classmates and friends at Beloved World Yoga who have enriched my time at the Yoga Farm. For any of you whose practice has lapsed, I encourage you to conduct your own Yoga Farm experiment. Let us know what you harvest.