It’s really, really great to be back in Ojai. This is my third yoga retreat with Steve Ross and Meredith Klein, and it felt a lot like returning to summer camp, when Amy and I arrived yesterday. I wondered who might be here, what amazing delicacies Meredith might serve, and what I might learn on my mat.
I am excited to be back, because every time I visit this place, I grow. And I leave feeling like I am more of who I am meant to be.
A lot of that has to do with what I have learned from Steve. He has taught me so much of what I know to be true about yoga. He is a man of few words, but what he does say, always resonates deeply.
As we practiced with him last night, I could not help reflecting on what I have learned from Steve, in the past fifteen years:
It’s all yoga. Sometimes we, as yogis, get so wrapped up in the details, that we miss the experience. We believe that there is only one right way to practice. We get hyper-focused on alignment. Or maybe we spend the entire class comparing ourselves to others. Steve, more than anyone, has taught me to let go of what I think my practice should be, and appreciate what it is…and the bottom line is that yoga is a blessing. All of it.
Amazing things happen when we hold poses for a really long time. We hold poses for a really long time in Steve’s classes. It was so annoying, when I first practiced with him! I used to have conversations in my brain with him about it. “Ok, Steve, that’s enough!”
Sometimes it even made me mad, that he kept us in chair pose for what seemed like forever.
Until one day, I decided I would try it his way, and start holding poses longer when I practiced at home. I started counting the breaths, holding each pose for ten breaths at first, and then working up to twenty breaths. I learned to quiet my mind, when I thought I couldn’t hold the pose much longer, and grew to appreciate the “burn”.
When I wrapped this discipline around my personal practice, my body grew stronger, and my meditation practice improved. I learned new poses, that had previously seemed out of reach, and it made me feel empowered. I realized that Steve had it right all along. Amazing things happen when we push ourselves further than we think we want to go.
Yoga can, and should be fun. The studio where I practice with Steve is hidden in the woods. It’s pretty quiet, except for the birds chirping outside. So it feels a little unexpected, and spontaneous, and maybe even a little rebellious, when he presses play on his iPod, and “Blurred Lines” fills the room.
Steve plays music really, really loud. It’s always just the right music (I needed to let loose with Robin Thicke, after four hours on a plane and two hours in the car!). It vibrates through my whole body, and it feels good. His students dance a little in the poses, and more people smile in his classes than any other classes I have visited.
I also love that Steve makes a lot of jokes, and teases us if he thinks we are being too serious. He reminds us that we can’t GET happy, we can only BE happy. We already have happy inside us. He’s so right…and I find myself thinking, over and over again, this is how we are supposed to feel.
Amy and I are headed back to the studio again this morning, And this afternoon. And tomorrow, and the next day. I could not be happier to be here. It’s a blessing, this practice of yoga, and the people it brings into our lives. I can’t imagine life without it.
Happy National Yoga Month! Go get your yoga on, wherever you might be.