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Navy & Gold

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After completing my seven-week tour across Ontario and returning to Ottawa this past weekend, I was thrilled by the idea of visiting one of my favorite yoga studios here in the city, Santosha Yoga on Elgin. Between the fast food, highway driving and hotels, attending a yoga class this evening was a necessity to get myself back into a normal routine and above all, work up a much-needed sweat.

Santosha is a fairly small studio, it has one room for its classes and two small change rooms where you might find yourself getting an elbow in the head while trying to put your socks on after class. It isn’t the studio’s facilities that draw me here, but rather a specific teacher whose style is like no other instructor I have ever experienced. Ichih’s 5:45 pm Hot Flow is a party just as much as it is a work out, and trust me she will put you to work. In the five years that I have been practicing I have never been pushed  harder physically than in one of her classes, and tonight Ichih challenged me mentally too.

Ichih’s classes are normally pretty busy, but this evening’s was especially jammed. As class was about to start more people began to pour in and the gab between our mats became smaller and smaller. I strategically placed myself towards the back of the room thinking that it would be easier to sneak out towards the end. I cursed myself after being placed beside a very furry gentleman who I  had a sneaking suspicion was a sweater (not to be confused with a sweater of body hair, but rather the sweat dripping from ever crevice of his body). As the class began and the room began to feel like a sauna, every time I swooped into chatarunga I would notice a fresh drop of sweat on my mat that was not mine.  My face began to cringe. As the poses became more difficult and my neighbor bounced around beside me, his sweat bounced off with him… and onto me. By this point I’m sure my face was fully contorted in disgust and my mind was not on my practice but focused on the sweat pouring out of this man’s pores. All of this came to a sudden halt when Ichih introduced the element of community into our practice. It was almost as if she sensed my fear (pretty sure everyone in that room sensed it) but nonetheless, she addressed it. Explaining to the class that there was a reason why we chose to attend class tonight. We could have watched a yoga DVD at home in the privacy of our own living rooms, but we chose to come into a studio where we would be sweating beside complete strangers. She continued to tell us that we, as humans, aren’t meant to be alone. We aren’t meant to be independent and that the three most difficult things to say in life are: I’m sorry, I love you and I need help. Admit that you need help, Ichih said. Admit why you really came to class this evening.

This is when it hit me. I had been flying solo for seven weeks without help from anyone. I had become so accustomed to my independence that I was  suddenly foreign to the idea of community. I forgot how warm it felt to be part of a community. Ichih finished making her point and instructed us to lay on our backs crossing our left knee over our right leg. We reached our right hand on the shoulder of one of our neighbors while simultaneously placing our left hand on our other neighbor’s knee. It was in this moment that I felt community surround me physically and mentally. My neighbor who I had been giving the stink eye to earlier looked over to me and apologized profusely. I smiling back at him and we both just laughed at what was no longer an awkward situation and I welcomed his hand on my shoulder. I didn’t think about sweat for the remainder of my practice but instead thought about community and the sense of security it left me with.

I’m not proud of the way I acted towards my neighbor this evening,  but I’m thankful for the challenge that Ichih presented us with this evening. Above all, I’m grateful for the understanding and sense of community I left class with.

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