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January 16, 2017

A teacher of mine, Jamie Brandenburg, recently reminded me of how a snake sheds its skin. As the snake grows, its skin gets tight and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable to the point that the snake starts to bang its head on a rock. Over, and over, and over. Eventually the snake is able to slither out of its old skin, now comfortable in its new evolved vessel. I had been feeling the necessity to shed my tight skin. Skin so tight that it was inhibiting my ability to breath, restricting my freedom. Needless to say, there had been a lot of head banging going on. This is the story of me shedding a layer. 

My first big girl trip in 5 years. By that I mean the first time I had been on a plane alone in 5 years. Five years that will not go by in that manner ever again. Solo travel is good for my gypsy soul. I found myself exhilarated by freedom, coupled with sadness and guilt for leaving my boys to go on a work trip. Consolation came from the fact that it wasn't my weekend to have them anyway. 

I was slated to lead an advanced workshop the day I arrived, and a beginners workshop the following day. Both classes to be held at my dear friend Whitneys studio, The District Yoga, in Seattle. To my delight, Whitney was teaching a beginners class that morning before my workshop. After the plane ride, a nice gentle stretch was just what I was craving. Walking into his studio felt like a homecoming to me. The space is clean and bright, but old school. Carpet. Lines. Mirrors. Heat, dear Lord the beloved heat. Whit and I have taught in a lot of the same places around the globe, and have many the same friends and teachers. Their spirits beckoned to me as I entered that room. By half moon, it was apparent that a gentle stretch was not on the menu for the day. Drenched in sweat, and it was just half moon. Throwing out my best laid gentle plans, I dug deep and went for broke. The whispers of my teachers, our teachers, grew louder with every breath and I could hear so many of them coming through in Whitneys teaching: Juan, Craig, J Sal, Sarah, Heather, Sheri, Ren, Jason, Emmy, Luke, and even BK himself...teachers we share. And somewhere around standing head to knee, a layer began to slough off. A layer my teacher Kellee Morris had reflected to me just weeks earlier. I knew this was coming, I just didn't know how or when it would present itself. 

Looking at myself in the mirror, I became aware of the gratitude I was feeling for some space. It was just me. Just Brandy. No labels. Nothing. A few breaths later, I was flooded with anxiety as that gratitude was replaced by it's polar dark opposite, guilt. And the guilt went something like this. If you are successful in your passion (job) surely you must neglect your children. And if you stay at home with your children, you must not take care of yourself and you probably neglect your partner. You should have hobbies and friends to make you interesting, but if those passions take you away from the home between the hours of 6 am and 7 pm, that simply will not due. To avoid looking like you've let yourself go, you should wear a little make up, but natural beauty is best, so don't wear too much. You should have curves so you aren't too skinny, but for hell sake, don't you dare get fat. You should be feminine, but definitely not too sensitive. You should have opinions, but don't rock the boat. You should be vixen in the bedroom, but a lady on the street. You should be educated and well spoken, but play it down so as not offend anyone. And my all time favorite...you should never look or act tired. Just a tip, if someone looks tired, or you know they are in a rough patch, the last thing they need to hear is, "you look tired."  Really?  I didn't know. 

The words weren't actually coming out like this in my head. More so, the words were patterns shaped like feelings, being purged with every drop of hard earned sweat as it rolled off my skin and puddled on the floor. I was slithering out of the tight skin that was constricting me; skin I had long outgrown. 

In mere moments, I had gone from crying to laughing at the simple realization that all of that shit, the labels and the shoulds....they were all mine. Self chosen and accepted. The choice to carry those labels and that baggage was mine, and mine alone. Just as easily as I had agreed to accept to carry them, I could drop them and leave them behind. And I did. The head banging was over. At least for this stratum. 

It's safe to say I got my ass royally kicked in that class. Sometimes, for me at least, that's what it takes to get to the other side. It takes a very skilled teacher who will get out of the way. A teacher who will push you to the brink of breaking. A teacher who allows you to have your own experience with minimal intervention. Effortlessly teaching a strong, smart, connected, unapologetic class. Thank you Whit.