I remember my first yoga class. I was terrified, but also desperate—two emotional qualities that I prefer to limit, never mind experience together! The terror was due to the absolute distrust that I had that my body could “do” yoga. The desperation was due to a mounting level of stress that was starting to rule over my days and nights.
It was a Bikram class in Philadelphia taught by the extraordinary Joel Pier. Why was Joel extraordinary? First, when I went to inquire about the class, he welcomed me in and assured me that my tight, stressed-out, non-flexible and entirely uncoordinated mind and body would only appreciate the task and that it was impossible to fail. Second, while Joel used the standard Bikram script, he added to it a sense of joy and humour while asking everyone to “just kill themselves!”. Third, Joel reminded me to smile. And finally, his patience and insight allowed me to experience the practice on my own, in my own way and safely with respect to my own emotional, spiritual and physical boundaries. Every once in a while, Joel would comment on something personal, but generally he was just glad to see his students and I felt that there was space to just come and go as anonymously as I pleased. Once, when I was unceremoniously dumped by a man I was dating who coordinated the dump with my slow realization that he had been seeing other women for a long time, I started to cry unexpectedly during final relaxation. When I explained to Joel that I had been dumped he said, “Do you know what the saddest thing is? The worst part about this is that he lost a treasure and he doesn’t even know it.” I can still hear his voice and it meant a lot to me. It still does. In yoga, your teacher matters because they speak to you when you are vulnerable and the suggestions that they make enter into your awareness in a way that you wouldn’t be open to at any other time.
For anyone in Pittsburgh who is contemplating taking their first yoga class or signing up for a beginner’s series, I highly recommend Anna Gilbert’s Absolute Beginner’s Series that starts in January. Choosing Anna as your first yoga teacher is an excellent choice! Why? Anna Gilbert makes me smile every time I see her. She is open to love and life in a way that is reflected through her eyes. It’s infectious! You can trust her to guide you into a practice that is right for you while giving you space and time to explore in your own way. Anna is also smart, well-trained and an excellent teacher. I can guarantee you that the voice of your first yoga teacher will echo through the corridors of your mind for a long time to come. Considering this, I don’t think you can go wrong with Anna’s strong, encouraging and sweet voice!
You can register and find more information about Yoga Matrika’s Absolute Beginner’s Series here.
Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, Owner and Director of Yoga Matrika located in Point Breeze, Pittsburgh, PA 15217. Check out all our programs at: https://www.yogamatrika.com/.