Back to (yoga) School – Jen Baker

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Confession:  I love the first day of school.

Coincident with this love of school goes an unnatural adoration of school supplies.  Patanjali tells us in Sutra 1.15 that we yogis should cultivate non-attachment along our path to self-realization as a means to quiet the ego and connect with our true nature, but no one is perfect and I’m here to tell you that this yogini has one HUGE attachment to new notebooks, pens, pencils and binders…preferably in an array of inspiring colors and maybe even bedazzled with a Disney superstar or professional sports icon.

As a child, every year I looked forward to the day the school supply list was released and insisted my mother take me immediately to the store to collect each item required for the start of my new year. I meticulously labeled my new swag with my name, then organized it in my backpack to take to school in eager anticipation of getting to set-up my new locker and desk. I would pick out my first-day-of-school outfit weeks in advance, and it would always be something from a fall fashion collection that was not appropriate for the 90-degree weather of early September in Baltimore.  But it didn’t matter – it was the first day of school. 

Even now I enjoy the excitement and feel mildly disappointed that I won’t be sitting at a new desk looking over a syllabus this week. Why? This can’t be normal.  Of late, it’s been cause for some introspection that I hope might actually serve as some inspiration to your practices.

For starters – let’s be honest…I am One. Huge. Nerd.  I love school, I love learning, I love homework and I even love tests. Aside from that, what I truly love about the first day of school is that it’s a new beginning. It allows you to start over.  You can be whoever you want to be because it’s another year to jumpstart personal growth on the way to reaching your goals and your potential. You connect with people and memories from the past that made you happy, but you are energized by the possibility of what the year ahead might bring.

In short – you can chart a new course and be whatever you want to be.  It’s like New Year’s, without all of the silly resolutions we know we won’t keep.  Amazing!

Isn’t what we get to do everyday when we step onto our mats?  Isn’t every practice, even every pose, an opportunity to be whom and what we want?  Isn’t each breath a chance to learn about ourselves, to grow and to embrace possibility?

Is it possible that every yoga practice is really just a first day of school without a sweet new protractor?  I believe that it is. But how many of us really appreciate our practices for that opportunity?  It’s easy to roll out the mat and just be grateful you made it to class – and there will be days when that unto itself is the victory.  But what if the next time you stepped to the top of your mat, closed your eyes and drew your hands to heart center you connected with the intention that you were going to BE a warrior that day

That’s the beauty of the practice; it is the essence of experiential learning.  Every time you step onto that mat, it’s like walking into school on that first day…and you can be whatever you want, you get to explore anything that feels interesting to you and you learn things you simply won’t in any other setting.  Your mat becomes your classroom; you come to class to embrace possibility and continue reaching toward your potential.

Yogis, Labor Day is upon us. The proverbial “first day of school” is here.  What will you do with yours?  I’m going to go pick up some new mechanical pencils, maybe a ‘tween heartthrob-emblazened notebook…and then I’m going to get on my mat to see what I can learn about myself and who I can be.  It’s a test you can’t fail, which makes your mat the Best. School. Ever.  Welcome back, and happy learning!


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