It was a year ago today when I came back from my volunteer work in south Texas. I wouldn’t have remembered except it was the day before Easter and it was a sunny day, nearing 60 degrees, with the beginnings of Spring starting to poke through the mud and small bits of remains snow. Just like today. That’s what I thought I’d be writing about until I went to the breathing workshop with Max Strom, at a yoga studio here in Boulder. I’m going to set Texas and my volunteer work aside for now because the two hours I spent with Max this morning feels like the bigger story today and the one that wants to be told and if I looked at the date on the calendar and not Easter as the date, I still have a few weeks on my return from Texas anniversary.
Five years ago, to the date, I completed my first of three blocks (7 days each, as I recall) of my yoga teacher training with Max Strom, something a signed up for with no more than a whim directing me and serious doubts that I’d actually complete all the sessions, which is neither here nor there, except today also happened to be the day that I signed up for a breath workshop with Max at a yoga studio here in Boulder. I didn’t put the synchronicity of dates together until seated on my mat, front row and to the left, as always, and looking up to the front of the room where a comfortable chair sat on a mat with a small table next to it with a bottle of water and a sound bowl sitting on it. Although the studio wasn’t at all like the one I had spend 200 hours in during the training, seeing the chair on the mat, in the front of the studio, brought a flood of memories back. I was always one of the first ones to class, just like this morning, because I like a gentle entry into things that are new. I like to have the time to settle into the space before the class or the workshop begins. I also want the best seat in the house and my early by nature personality usually confirms that I will have just that. There were six other mats in the room when I got there, making my 25 minutes early look a little less anxious. By the time the workshop began, the studio was as full as it could get, with our mats just inches apart. Max is popular and loved by anyone who has taken any of his workshops or yoga classes over the years. I heard about it through my daughter, who took some classes at the studio and happened to be on their email list. Otherwise, he would have come and gone and I never would have known.
Sitting on my mat with my journal, a pen, a bottle of water and a bolster to make the two hours of mostly sitting, more comfortable, I was taken back to the very first day of the yoga teacher training, with the same lineup of accoutrements on my mat, but a much different feeling. I was preparing for an 8 hour day with 6 days to follow that 8 hour day and not a 2 hour workshop. I thought back to how nervous I was — filled with apprehension and wondering if I’d really be able to complete what I had signed on for. I was also very proud of myself for having made it that far —from the signing up part to the showing up part and was thankful for the monetary investment that would made my chances of quitting before completion slim. Thoughts that morning ran the gamut of “Seriously? You really think you can do 200 hours of this and for what? You don’t even want to be a yoga teacher, do you?” To “This is the next step in your yoga journey, whether you teach or not and I’m proud of you for showing up,” were in competition in my mind. The loudest one of confidence and pride usually winning until its counterpart of doubt and insecurity would push its way to the front to be heard. Inhale, exhale, I can do this. I want to do this, I thought. I didn’t feel that kind of doubt this morning that had been present the first day of my training, but I did feel anxious. I had never been in the studio before, didn’t know a one of the 60 or 70 people whose mats were pushed together almost touching, but I did feel grounded, literally, with the view out the window of the mountains I spend so much time hiking in. That made me feel home. The shades, by the way, were drawn before the workshop began, so no one would have to deal with the sun in their eyes or maybe it was so we would concentrate on what Max was saying and not the view behind him.
Max and I made a visual connection but it wasn’t until the workshop was over that we were able to reconnect and I was able to give him a hug. Max is a big man and I remember thinking “gentle giant” the first time I heard him spoke. His voice quiets a room and his stories are ones that you could sit all day listening to, even on a thin, not very comfortable, yoga mat. He is one of the best teachers and speakers I’ve ever heard and I felt blessed to once again be in his company, absorbing the wisdom he imparts every time he speaks. He was only going to be in a few US cities before going back to his home in the Netherlands, making his time in Boulder even more synchronistic and special. He told me his next stop was Kansas City.
What a gift of reflection today has brought me. I was a much different person when I started that first module of the 200 hour training five years ago (thank you Facebook for all of your historical, “to the date” reminders… they often matter, like today). For starters, the bottom three inches of my hair were still brown. I lived in Leawood, Kansas, had not become a grandmother yet, didn’t know that a year and three weeks later, my role of grandmother would give me the new name of “Laudie,” a throwback to what some of my friends who I worked with at Kulik in Alaska used to call me. The name stuck and now three grandchildren have adopted it, soon to be four when the littlest one starts talking.
I had a condo in Frisco, Colorado at that time, but if someone would have told me that three years after that training was completed, I’d buy a home in Boulder and would begin the process of selling my home in Leawood, Kansas, I would not have believed them. I had no idea the physical and emotional pain that would come from moving from the place I had lived most of my life nor did I know the joy that returning to the state where life began for me would bring. All of this came together this morning during Max’s “Learn to Breathe to Heal Yourself and Your Relationships,” to which I’d add, “while finding the gift of such synchronistic timing that no doubt will take you back to a pivotal journey in your life that you’ll most likely want to write about.”
While we were going through the breathing exercises, both standing and seated, I couldn’t help but return to both the physical space and the emotional space of that time. I had two different women stay with me, Laurie (ironically) during the first session and Megan during the last, which was new for me — sharing the upstairs of my home along with coffee at my kitchen table with women I had never met but after a few days, the sharing would also include our histories, our stories and pieces of our hearts.
As the days of the last session of the teacher training progressed, and I knew I would have to get up in front of all the students (maybe 30? 35?) and do a short teaching section, I became nervous. Very nervous. To calm myself, I would come home at the end of class and walk until I felt confident that I could stand up in front of the group, all who I now called friends, and teach. I honestly don’t know why I felt such anxiety about it but I did, and it was real. I remember writing a blog post about it and made the comparison to my irrational fear of mice after having seen one on the sidewalk when I was out walking. It was dead, by the way, which gives even more emphasis to the “irrational” part of my rodent fears.
Today, there was no anxiety about having to teach, something that immediately came to mind when Max walked in, but rather, a deep sense of comfort and knowing. Max looked the exact same as he did five years ago which gave me great comfort, but not being in the studio that felt so much like home to me in KC felt strange. Afterwards, when we had the chance to talk, he asked me if I lived in Boulder or was just visiting, adding that when he saw me he was confused because he wasn’t going to be in KC until the following week. I told him I lived in Boulder and felt a surge of pride with those words as they come out with ease now and I no longer feel the need to annotate with my date of arrival.
The teacher training and what followed for me, most importantly a move, have made for an incredible journey of growth and one that felt good to have the memory nudge today seeing Max, but with very different eyes this time. It feels both important and necessary for me to be able go back in time to see how far I’ve come, but what a rare gift that the opportunity is so real it can be breathed in (literally) and finished off with a big hug when completed. This morning I relearned the breath techniques Max taught our class five years ago but with a grasp that felt easier and more comfortable to hold on to.