There are few things that frustrate yoga students and yoga instructors quite like unexpected noise.
The clanks and the bangs and the slams. Honking cars and loud music and students coming in late only to unroll their mats with a gigantic thud. It’s enough to make someone want to throw up their hands and yell out, “can’t you see I’m trying to find peace over here?!”
For the longest time, that was me. Find your breath? More like I’ll find a way to shut up that car alarm. Coughing fit during relaxation pose? Well, more like the “derelaxation” pose.
I came into the studio expecting silence. If it wasn’t the instructor’s voice or some softly-playing music in the background, it was going to bother me. An entire class could be ruined over something as small as intermittent construction noises from outside.
Even when I became an instructor, it frazzled me. The slamming door might as well have slammed me off my mat, because I would become completely and totally thrown off. I’d hear a set of kids screaming in the unit next to us and all I could do was look apologetically at my students as I desperately tried to remember what I wanted to do next.
It took a long, long while, but I’ve come to not only accept the noise, but welcome it. I now welcome the set of squealing children running down the hall. I welcome the loud country music blaring in the office suite next door to us. I welcome the lady who should obviously go into public speaking because the way she can project her voice during a phone conversation is downright superhuman.
What changed? Did I have some great epiphany? Well, no, not really. I just remembered why I do what I do on my mat, and what it means when I get off the mat. And, in some weird way, it made me learn to love the noises instead of hate them.
I now love the noises because it is a reminder that the world is noisy. The world is loud and the world is messy. It is unpredictable and unexpected—and things almost never go according to plan. It’s a reminder that you can’t perfect the world—you can’t even perfect yourself—but we can find serenity in the midst of all the chaos, through whatever avenue works for each of us.
The noises give me a chance to discuss one of the limbs of yoga: pratyahara. This refers to a withdrawal of the senses, a turning inwards. It means focusing on what’s going on inside of us and not what’s happening in the outside world. Doing this reminds us that we have the power to choose how we process the outside world—we can let it throw us off or we can learn to stay on point.
There’s another aspect that comes into play during our noisy yoga classes: apigraha, which roughly translates into “non-grasping.” Learning to let go comes in all shapes in sizes, but one of the biggest things we can learn to let go of is our attachment to very specific types of outcome. Sure, we can go into our yoga class expecting a quite, uninterrupted class that will downright force us to feel peaceful. That is all fine and dandy—until the class stops being quiet and uninterrupted.
Both are easier said than done, I’ll be the first to admit. I still have issues trying to turn inwards, to let go of that set expectations. And it’s not like one yoga instructor’s chat about pratyahara and apigraha is going to magically get people un-annoyed at the clanks and bangs.
But it is a start.
The same way we learn to breathe through physical challenges on our mat as a way to learn to breathe through the mental challenges off the mat, we can learn to stay centered through the noise while on the mat as a way to learn to stay centered through the noise while off the mat. We can remind ourselves that it’s okay if our savasana is interrupted by someone’s cell phone. It’s okay that construction is going on outside. It can be distracting, but we can use it as a way to practice turning inwards, to let go of our expectations and go with the flow.
How we react to what the outside world brings is inevitably a choice, and we can slowly but surely become a little more in control about what reaction we choose—both on the mat and off.
Just a little something to think about when people are packing up, stomping their feet, or sneezing up a storm.
Author: Abby Rosmarin
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: Tucker Sherman at Flickr