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November 2012 – Out of Your Comfort Zone

Dear Yoga Friends,

Recently I had a dream in which I was entering a yoga studio to teach. Rather than finding the usual regulars with mats spread over a bare wood floor, there was a somewhat larger group with several strangers mixed in among the regulars. Many had elaborate setups on their mats, including small shrines, bells, colorful swaths of fabric, and little altars with incense and other offerings. On some mats there were two or three people, and on a few mats there were children who had been brought along. An outside door was ajar and people were chatting and possibly smoking on the other side of the door before the start of class. As I began to teach the class I noticed that music was playing, with an odd assortment of instruments, including a tuba.

Now dreams can be and frequently are bizarre, and this one kept getting moreso. I finally decided to go up to the person responsible for the music and asked her to turn it off. She happened to be a friend of our family whom I never see in a yoga studio in real life but for some reason was there to ensure there was music. When I asked her to turn the music off, she became quite upset, insisting that the music was critical to the mood and that I had no right to stop it. An argument ensued in which I told her in no uncertain terms that I would not have this tuba music playing in my class. She eventually turned it off in a steaming huff.

As I attempted to teach, I was beset by continual challenges. In trying to use the walls for support, I found every square inch of wall space occupied by decorative objects. The floor turned out to be covered with a thick carpet that had no traction. I could not see how it would be possible to do any of the asanas I had planned for the class. Friends of mine wandered in, apologizing for being late and saying they were hoping to take their first Iyengar yoga class with me, but because they were late, gestured to me that they would just sit quietly on the sidelines and watch. Of course it was at this point, when there appeared to be no hope for any kind of resolution, that I awoke.

I wondered to myself what this dream might be about. Clearly it falls in that Alice in Wonderland category where the usual rules don't apply and all control is lost. My take, of course, is that the dream is very much about the challenges of maintaining a yoga practice. The popular understanding of yoga is that it is a controlled environment where disturbances are screened out and one can focus on becoming more relaxed. In fact the opposite is true. In yoga practice, you establish a kind of baseline where you are working, and then purposely introduce physical disturbances that your mind must cope with. Yoga practice creates an environment where you actually submit yourself to a controlled form of stress and learn how to deal with it. My dream was challenging me with something more on the extreme side, but nevertheless demanding me to find a way towards yoga in the middle of everything that was going on. So given the way life tends to be, I guess the dream was pretty realistic after all!

Wishing you well as we move into the holiday season, which can occasionally feel like one of those dreams until you get the chance to slow down and enjoy a quiet moment. Your thoughts, insights, and interpretations appreciated as always.



Elvis & Yogananda

Chad Balch