Hello and Happy Monday,
Have you ever experienced someone you know who is passionate about something that cannot stop talking about it, not even noticing that you might be bored out of your mind listening to it? As a peloton owner, there are many jokes here that “we” cannot stop talking about how amazing our pelotons are, I laugh at these memes, these jokes because they do, in fact, highlight some of my peloton friends (and maybe me) that just can’t stop talking about their bike that goes nowhere. But what about when that someone is a yoga teacher? A yoga teacher who is supposed to be aware, supposed to be conscious of reading the room, mindful that they may be talking about their passion a little too much, or maybe have gone too far.
This happened recently, a teacher I know took her passion too far, she missed the boat on making the impact she wanted. She was so into the subject matter that she lost herself, unintentionally, and well, she made an impact for sure, just not the one she intended. We all have been here – putting intention over impact.
When I first started attending regular yoga classes, my teacher taught me that “Namaste” meant, “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you”. I wrote it down and taped it to my computer screen to be reminded every day of that meaning. It meant so much. My teacher saw me – she would say this and bow at the end of each class and we would all repeat, “Namaste” after her. It took me almost 19 years of saying this, repeating teachers, and me ending my own classes this way until I realized my true impact.
One day watching a Baby Einstein video with Michael, they opened with all these different forms of Hello, including Namaste. Wait a second, did Namaste mean “hello”? They didn’t teach us this in my teacher training program. I opened some books, I called some people, I had been using this at the end of my classes, like my teachers did, was I wrong?
I decided instead of saying “Namaste” that I would end class with a Sanskrit phrase, “om bolo sat guru Bhagavan ki” meaning loosely, “I give thanks to the teacher within” and then I added “jai” and pronounced it “Ji” meaning ” victory! or hallelujah!” I felt better about this, I wasn’t ending class with a hello anymore. This phrase resonated with me and felt more powerful. One of my favorite teachers introduced me to the phrase and I trusted her on the meaning. One night a student came up to me after class – she had been a regular for months – and said to me, “where I am from in India, it’s pronounced Jaay not Ji. I get your intention, but I wanted you to know.” I went home and looked through all my books. I took out my Language of Yoga CD with pronunciations and listened. I never used the phrase in that class again.
As the years went on, I did more research, I took more workshops, I learned more about Sanskrit. My intention of adding value at the end of class had an impact. As I learned more I began using the phrase again, just like with any language there are different dialects and slightly different pronunciations I was comfortable saying “jai, as “ji”, and then sometimes also ended class with Namaste. My thought was there was a tradition of using “Namaste” at the end of class that I wanted to uphold, it felt right. And then, it just didn’t feel right anymore.
I struggled with how to end classes for a couple of years, I brought up my struggles in class, I ended with “thank you” – people were still saying namaste even though I didn’t. I was confused and I felt really awkward at the end of each class. I was happy to get a harmonium. so I could bring that into class and end classes with aum’s (om’s) instead of the alternative. Then the pandemic happened and I knew I could easily let go of Namaste during a zoom class.
Namaste does not mean “the light in me honors the light in you”. It’s more of a formal greeting in India, similar to “Honored Greetings” and morphed into a more common but still reverent “hello”. It’s also not pronounced “Nah-mah-STAY” but instead, more like “Nah MUSTH-ey”. You can maybe see why I debated this for a while.
My intention at the end of my classes has always been to thank you for joining me, to let you know I SEE you, I VALUE you, that I am GRATEFUL for you. The impact of me using “Namaste” was taking something from a culture I highly value and appropriating it for my class closing based on “tradition”.
I put intention over impact. I used “Namaste” even when I knew deep down that I wasn’t using it correctly. And then I put impact over intention – I struggled but I knew everyone loved saying “namaste” at the end of class. There was an impact after it was said – class was over. I think finding a balance between intention over impact and impact over intention is important. I think finding that balance is knowing your why, knowing what you want the takeaway to be, being aware of how it’s impacting others, and while staying authentic.
If you come to class, and those coming the past year know, I don’t say it anymore. I wanted you to know why. I think I have found my balance between intention and impact.
Depending on the weather, Yoga in the Park is this THURSDAY at 9:00 am. Last week I forgot to put what park! Whoops. I’ll be at Braddock Interm Park in Old Town. It’s on Pendleton between N. Henry and N. Fayette St.
See you Outside (and on Zoom)!