The Yogi's Agreement

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I HEARBY AGREE FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, to participate fully in my whole life. A requisite for showing up in such a way will require I take my Yoga practice on and off my mat. Therefore, I agree to be Yoga. This agreement fully binds me to earth for the duration of my stay, and beyond.

AS A YOGI, I AGREE TO BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER; as I am able to hear the voice of both my body and my Yoga teacher, I acknowledge they will sometimes send conflicting cues, and it will be up to me to decide which one feels and sounds right for my practice. Further, I understand I am allowed to ask questions and acquire suggestions and new information from my instructor, taking only what works for me, and leaving the rest.

I AGREE TO EXPERIENCE UNCERTAINTY AND DISAPPOINTMENT as a Yogi. My physical practice, my body and my life will change with the passage of time. I may become more or less mobile at times, I may be injured and need to modify my practice. Therefore, since my body is inexact and sensitive, I agree to cater to its unwavering desire to heal me and make me strong.

AS A YOGI, I MAY NEED A BREAK from the physical practice of Yoga. Sometimes I'll be away from my mat for a few days and those days may turn into weeks, into months, perhaps years. While this may be considered unproductive or detrimental to my health, I know, at its deepest level, Yoga honors my need to pause, however long I see fit.

IF I AM A WOMAN, I understand that my body and my soul are inherently connected to the energy around, above and below me. I acknowledge I have a special relationship with the moon. Therefore my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical practice will change from day to day. When I am on my cycle, I understand I may not be able to balance on one foot, or even balance one task. I also know it may not be best to take inversions, so as to allow gravity to pull energy where it needs to go.

IF I AM A YOGA TEACHER, I know about body language. I acknowledge that although I am doing the talking, my students are communicating back to me with their body. I can see their story. I will listen and respond to these stories with great curiosity and respect. As a Yoga Teacher, I understand music selection, sequence and theme are not the only reflections of who I am as a Yoga Teacher; these are only small components of what makes a Yoga experience. I recognize that should these class elements disappear, I am still able to teach, as Yoga is about union-- to unite with other people, through my voice and my spirit.

IF I AM A MAN, I recognize Yoga as a way to complement and enhance my masculinity. I understand that my practice, on many levels, sets an important example for generations to come. Further, when I show up to my mat, I see myself as a better person, a more present partner, a kinder friend, a more effective communicator. I understand the importance of making my presence known and my intentions clear, both on and off my mat. As a Yogi, I believe in the covenant of comradeship; so not only do I practice for myself, I humbly and proudly practice on behalf of my brothers, young and old.

AS A YOGI, I PRACTICE THE PRINCIPLES OF HEALTHY ATTACHMENT; I know what I need, I know how to ask for it and most importantly, I know how to receive it when it's given to me. If I enjoy human touch, I am allowed to ask my teacher to adjust, assist or massage me in class. I understand my request may not always be granted, but Yoga assures me of the power of asking for what I need.

EACH TIME I BRING MY PRACTICE ON AND OFF MY MAT, I am promising somewhere deep inside I will participate as my whole self. I am promising to build relationships rooted in kindness for myself and the world around me. I am acknowledging I am not perfect and neither is anyone else. I am willing to see the world in different ways. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY...I know what it means not only to do Yoga, but to be Yoga.

Grace and Peace and Balls and Namaste,

Erica

 

*This piece was inspired by The Eater's Agreement by, Marc David; Founder of The Institute for the Psychology of Eating

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

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"...so tell me now, and I won't ask again; Will you still love me tomorrow?" -The Shirelles

Almost unwilling, I peel my seventeen year-old half naked body off my twin-sized bed, dragging my feet in slow motion over to my ugly, cumbersome brown dresser. I reach  for my Wizard of Oz tin box and take my sweet time sifting through all my secrets; personal notes I passed in school, a mini bottle of vodka, a small bag of weed--but nothing to smoke it with, of course-- and condoms. 'I'm so bad', I think to myself. I rip one from the strip, like it's a ticket stub, and I can feel the thing slip-slide out of and around my fingers, from within the tiny square package. I bring it to him with uncertainty, as if to ask, "Is this what you need? Can I get anything else for you? Can I be anyone else for you?" He takes it from me and for the first time since our first kiss, he looks like he doesn't know what to do. Mostly, I don't know what to do. 

When I was seventeen, many of my friends and acquaintances had already been having sex and oddly, I got a lot of attention for still being a virgin. I felt proud, or relieved, or something. When people asked what I was waiting for, I usually responded with, "I just want to wait until I'm okay with the guy leaving right afterward, because, well, they always leave." Any psychologist will tell you this is a significant and dangerous belief for a young woman to have.

I watch him tear open the small wrapper like a Christmas present. I realize he's spending forever looking at this thing from all angles. Has he forgotten I'm right next to him? I want this to be the moment he asks me to be his girlfriend. I want to hear him say reassuring words. But all he does is grunt and struggle to put the condom on. Eventually he leans in for a kiss; a weird 'this-is-how-we're-supposed-to-start-I-think' kiss, and I don't realize my body has scooted away a few inches. Then a few more. Then a few more, until his body is practically chasing mine along my little-girl bed."You'll never catch me", I tell him with my eyes.

Despite friends trying to describe it to me, I didn't know what sex was supposed to feel like. But I guessed it wasn't having my skin shrink back from his, my stomach roll with panic and sadness, my head pound out this is wrong. And when my body acted like that, I felt confused. I kept reminding myself I want this...I want him. I kept trying to convince myself that on some level, he loved really liked me. Whether I really loved him wasn't the point; I just wanted to feel adored. Wanted. Desired. Not forgotten. Unforgettable.

For a moment, I stare wide-eyed where the wall meets the ugly popcorn ceiling as a familiar song starts humming in my head; "Will you still love me tomorrow", by The Shirelles. I suddenly acknowledge that this will eventually come to an end and it most likely won't be in my favor. He is going to leave afterward, no matter what choice I make, and he may never come back. I'll be left defeated, confused, uncertain and broken, like so many young women who find themselves in this situation are.  I somehow decide I'm too smart for this, though, and before I can turn my head to look into his big blue eyes, before I can tell him what I'm thinking, his unusually stern, annoyed voice startles me; "Erica! Yes or No?" I wish I could answer with confidence and not shame. I wish I could make him understand what I'm going through. I wish I could make him love me. But it doesn't matter, the answer will be the same..."No", I whisper. And I watch as he puts on his clothes, and leaves.

I keep digging and searching for the *exact* moment I learned that the act of sex and being left go hand in hand. Even though I waited until age twenty-three to have sex, in the confines of a committed relationship, I still didn't and don't find it easy to feel worthy, or special, or wanted, or cherished or loved by men. Each time I hear that Shirelles song on my iPod, tears well up in my eyes, time stands still, my chest turns red and I'm seventeen again; I'm right back on my twin-sized bed, wondering why it seems everyone else is so much easier to love than me.

As much as I adore my job, it's hard for me to go to work sometimes. It's hard for me to be surrounded by women with beautiful wedding rings and even more beautiful children. It's hard for me not to wonder what they have that I don't. What have they grasped that I cannot reach? Did they have to recognize their own worth before meeting their partners? Did they have to spend most of their twenties in therapy? How much work did they have to do on themselves before being a part of a healthy, joyful and unconditionally loving relationship? I'm no fool; I know that no one knows what a relationship really looks like behind closed doors. I'm just saying that I see a lot of present, attentive, loving, smiling Moms and Dads every day and I just want to be one of them. I want to feel worthy of being one of them.

Sometimes, I picture myself as a newborn. I imagine grownup me scooping up that sweet, round little baby Erica, holding her close and telling her she's worthy. I tell her she's deserving of a love that has little to do with sex and everything to do with intimacy. I want her to know the world is full of good men; that all men are not like the ones who'll hurt her. Most of all, I want to tell her that only when she unconditionally loves herself, when she truly takes herself to the next level and exists only as the highest, most incredible version of herself, can a relationship do the same. She needs to hear all that. And one day, she will meet a man who'll not only love her tomorrow, but always.

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