Jordy asked me last week what made a good yoga class. I’d just walked in the door, smiling, ridiculously sweaty, and full of a kind of radiance and self-satisfaction that comes from what I call ‘a good class’. I say it with a sigh and stretch up on my tippy-toes, over the moon that I found some time to get back to the mat and back to myself. To be honest, most classes are good, and unless I’m sleeping through my poses, just going through the motions of the vinyasa, I can always find something to take from it.

But it made me think, where it happened - the goodness - that made some classes so especially rewarding. Somewhere between sun salutation A and my balancing poses I feel myself come undone. I think I know, about that time I fold into uttanasana, fold into myself, if the class will happen for me. It’s a delicate balance of far too many things; is it a morning class, am I feeling rested and ready, did I remember enough hair pins, did I run straight from work or miss the train, and do I feel on edge, am I hungry, or am I worrying about what I’ll cook for dinner when I get home, is the class full, have I practiced in the last two days, is my body feeling open and supple, is my neck sore, is there a dancer next to me who I just know will break my heart when we come to standing splits, is the heat warming or too stifling. And so on.

I’m finding as I get older and more serious about my yoga that I can move away from those thoughts, or at least put them to one side for a bit. I know my mind is at peace when I have that extra five minutes resting in supta baddha konasana before class starts – my spine grounding me, my hips and knees wide, my heart open. I know I’m close when I get to practice at least four times a week. When I breathe through and remind myself that I have just 90 minutes in this space, and I best be present and full for all of them. And when I do that, downward dog feels restful and right. Coming into updward dog brings lightness to my chest and softens my shoulders and some days, if life were a Baz Luhrman film, I feel like my heart would shine out gold light clear across the room.

And so I remind myself that every class, ‘good’ or otherwise, is just practice. And as my teachers are kind enough to remind me, practice is all there is. Yoga isn’t going anywhere, it’s being there. Each day, on the mat, working between body and mind for some quiet. And yes, I dream of the day I master tripod headstand, and I love every breath that I hold longer in crow pose, and push myself to my edge trying to wrap my head and hips around a perfectly formed warrior one, but I’m becoming ok with the in-between. There is comfort in poses than make your thighs tremble and your breath shake about your lungs as you watch the sweat drip from your wrist and hold out for just three more counts.

A good class is when I make it those three counts. A good class is when each twist feels juicy and rich. As if I’m massaging my insides, twisting out all the bad stuff like an old sponge. I’m happy when I don’t compare myself with others. When I don’t lose sight of my drishti and wriggle about in tree pose. When I remember to smile and soften my brow and appreciate the stretch. When I LOVE the stretch.

Loving the stretch is what yoga is about for me. Finding space and comfort and control in my own body and loving every inch and degree my good health allows me.

{origins of image unknown, found via Pinterest}