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30 Day Challenge Update & My Annual Warning to Mat Snappers

June 25, 2013

I would like to begin with a bow of gratitude to my teachers. More on that in future post!


I have entered the last week of my personal 30 day challenge – 30 hot classes in 30 days. It has been much more smooth than I thought. Since the first week, the panic wore off and things have gotten much easier. There have been some real moments of “yoga break through” and even a mini-enlightenment moment during standing bow pulling posture.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Buddhist concept of “no self”: the teaching that what we think of us “I” is not in fact a separate stable entity but a conglomeration of of experience evolving moment by moment. In my own Jewish tradition the recognition of “no self” (moving past identification with the ego) is called bittul hayesh – best translated as becoming completely transparent to the moment to moment unfolding of all being.

This is both a threatening and liberating concept – threatening to the part of us that needs to hold desperately to an identity and liberating because identification with the ego construct causes us so much darn trouble. One of my favorite teachers, Zen Master Cheri Huber, says:

Just about every difficult or disastrous situation has occurred because at least one person involved either didn’t know egocentric karmic conditioning was not their authentic nature or was fooled into believing it was for long enough to do something unfortunate.
So liberation from identification with the ego or “I” holds the possibility for making world peace (no joke).

There came a moment last week during stand bow when I was filled with the idea that “I” was not there to “do” yoga. The yoga was meant to move through the container of my body. In other words, it is not a matter of will and ego on my part to “do” yoga, but rather in some way, yoga was doing me. In that split second, I found a peace in standing bow that allowed for a moment of balance that felt – excuse me but – perfect.

Then I broke the spell and thought “Wow, this great!” and felt forward into the mirror.

I don’t know if that moment of peace would have been possible if I weren’t doing this 30 in 30 challenge. The dailiness and consistency really do make a difference, but that small moment of opening – the possibility that this practice is part of a greater flow and very much NOT about “me” – has been worth the work so far.

May I say that perfect enlightenment assuredly does not extend to that moment when certain unnamed yogis walk into the room and snap their mats out with such force that we, resting, peaceful yogis levitate off the floor?

I have written before about the talkers, heavy breathers, sweat flingers and grunters, but somehow I feel a need to revisit this mat snapping issue as kind of an annual reflection on human nature. I have tried reasoning with you, cajoling, and being enlightened about it, and now the only recourse I have, sigh, is limericks and song lyrics.

There once was a room full of yogis
Peaceful and not smoking stogies
They rest on their backs
and try to relax
’til others snap mats like bogies

There was a young mat snapper named Biff
who rolled out his mat in jiff
he pulled with such force
it startled a horse
and now other yogis are miffed

Or how about this, adapted from Fiddler on the Roof, sung to the tune of “Match Maker”:

(Chorus:) Mat snapper, mat snapper roll out your mat
Not too quickly ‘though, lay it out flat
scaring the yogis your karma will stink
So roll it out after you think

For hot class, do it in silence
For yin class make it hush
For me it seems like a symptom
that you are in much of a rush …. (repeat chorus)

In any event, friends, let’s work to keep the room peaceful, or I will be forced to recite limericks at inopportune moments during class.

Well not “I” – the limericks will be moving through me.

And then I will fall into the mirror.

-Rabbi Chava Bahle

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