I recently bumped into a student who I haven’t seen in years, and she kindly said to me “thanks for still being here.” I could see in her face that the three years that had passed were rough ones. In fact, Chris, BYSJ Manager, and I have noticed lately how many past students were suddenly coming back – not just from a few months ago, but as many as three to five years ago. One student I hadn’t seen in five years reminded me of my life back then: before my braces; before I ever started dancing; before I considered competing. I thought of where I used to stand in the yoga room; how many classes we had at that time; what teachers were here; and remembered too that we didn’t even have Chris!

As we become older at BYSJ, we start to notice that our tight knit community experiences some of the bigger life passages together: we had more children; we got married or divorced; we changed careers; we moved and came back; our kids have graduated from high school or college. Some of us went through difficult operations or experienced life-threatening circumstances. And just in the last year, we’ve had two of our own Bikram Yoga instructors, Ren and Jason, pass away, both of whom came to BYSJ and had such a large impact on our community. Even outside our yoga community, we’ve watched as our country shifted economically and made history as we elected the first African American president.

Our community is really one big family. These are simply life experiences that any normal family goes through. Our community provides a space of strength and trust much like that of a related family, helping us to get through times of difficulty as well as sharing in times of joy. However, I’d like to suggest another piece the yoga offers.

The yoga room in its purity, with only carpet and mirrors asks, “who are you against the changes that have occurred?”

BYSJ is a constant, being here almost eight years with the same surroundings, the same space, same people and the same yoga. Our bedrock of no change allows for some clear and perhaps, confrontational reflection. In the same way, healthy families can also provide a similar unconditional space to support growth. However, a mirror and just you looking into it, can ask a lot of you.

Whether you’ve come back from being away for years, or are a regular practitioner who has stayed with us, we all can agree that taking care of our bodies by keeping up a good practice will help us through all of life’s fortunes and misfortunes. Beyond the changes in our body that occur, there are other potent forces that awaken on our path of self-realization. Sometimes it takes being away for a long period of time, or an occurrence of a profound situation in our lives for us to have the courage to dive in and inquire about the lesson we needed to learn. Did we hear the inner voices of our soul and act on them? Did we look at the situation with eyes of understanding and not judge ourselves or others too harshly? Did we monitor our reaction patterns and consider new ways to resolve or approach the situation? Did we listen to our heart’s longings and start to illuminate more of who we really are? Did we fully accept the circumstance and move away from frustrations and expectations? Yoga is so truth-telling and lovingly so.

Personally, I love to see all of us in the yoga room – new, current and past students. We are ready to deal with another layer of resistance to our fullest expression of who we know we can be. We don’t need to be blood connected. In fact, it’s better that we are not. (In some way, that might bring in a false sense of being bonded.) We are totally separate but are pooled together in a common cause to work through our own inner mysteries to know, accept and improve ourselves. Let yoga ask the tough questions that family may not. It’s confidential and for your use only – between you and that divine reflection in the front mirror.