Unrolling my mat last night in yoga class, I noticed we had a substitute teacher. I sighed inwardly, a little disturbed that my regular teacher wasn’t there. I felt uncertain, like I didn’t know what I was getting into.
Even though I have been doing yoga for twenty-five years–I even taught years ago–I still consider myself a beginner. I feel like a newbie in every new yoga class I take; yet, I don’t want my yoga instructor to be one. I don’t mean to belittle someone young and excited, but sometimes their insistence in sharing their new yoga discoveries can make class feel cumbersome and, honestly, yield too much talking. Nevertheless, I laid on my mat and resigned myself to do it. After all, I had made it to class after managing to escape the chaos at home.
The yoga instructor came in with a calm breath and said, “Today, we are going to come into child’s pose for ten breaths while we set our intention for our practice today.” Her calming music came on as I worked to find my breath and simply be on the mat. My goal was to let go and be present in the practice, not to force an intention.
Then, she stumped me and said quietly, “What is your purpose? And everyone come into down dog.”
In down dog, I bicycled my legs trying to open the stiff old lady feeling in my calves and thought… my purpose?!
We moved into a flow of movements, with no extra instruction and no discussion of each pose’s objective. I was beginning to like this teacher. It was dreamy to fall into the sequence of our sun salutation without an outside voice chirping constantly. The problem was the INSIDE voice chirping. It was my voice! I forgot to be present. I couldn’t quit the internal questioning about my purpose.
Purpose: (Noun) “The reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.”
I was now completely focused on my purpose. I think the instructor meant the “purpose of this class,” but I lost my mind and reflected on my entire life. What is my purpose? What is my purpose? What is my purpose? I asked this question over and over again throughout the flow.
At first, I was just anxious that I didn’t seem to know my purpose, but then I got angry. Why don’t I know my purpose? I focused on my career-path purpose first, then to my higher-being purpose.
Suddenly, I had questions displaced with anger on the mat.
Does anyone know his or her purpose? Thoughts were swirling around in my head as I laid on my mat. My kids are a purpose. My community and friends are a purpose. How I live my life . . . what I write…. These are all purposes. Right?
The more I thought about it, the more the answers all seemed to fall short of the question she was asking. Were these all excuses hiding my REAL purpose? I can promise you at this point, I was no longer being intentional in my yoga flow. I was doing some hardcore brain lifting instead. My heart wasn’t in it and I felt downright insecure. I truly thought, well great, I don’t have a purpose.
Suddenly, in the middle of the pure panic I was feeling, this new, young, super cute yoga teacher said, “We don’t all need a purpose. Sometimes your purpose is to be present in the here and now. Sometimes it is enough to just notice the body and mind.” Then, in the midst of all that quiet calm yoga in the room, I giggled. I giggled out loud.
My obnoxious giggle in that quiet space was a reminder that am a beginner, not just in yoga, but in life. I don’t have to know my purpose; honestly, every day can have a new purpose. Who even knows if there is such thing as a purpose? My giggle brought me back to the moment and allowed me to be present. My purpose in that moment was to do yoga.
It was that simple.