Recently I’ve been reminded of a situation that happened a couple of years ago on my 500 hour teacher training with Michel Besnard.
Every morning we’d spend two hours making our way through our tailored version of the ashtanga primary series. I was new to the practice and found every day hard. The breath was different, the poses were different, the intensity was definitely different. The strength and stamina required for the practice in the Thai heat was unlike anything I’d experienced before.
I was surrounded by people from all over the world and some were very familiar with the practice. Michel drip fed second series poses to them whilst others like me looked on gawping.
One morning I was struggling to lift my back knee in the twisted version of Utthita Parsvokonasana. Wobbling ridiculously, bringing my palms together in prayer, attempting to open my chest upwards, I sensed Michel approaching me.
Now imagine this: A cheeky Frenchman in his seventies, over six feet tall. He’s got steely blues eyes and the ability to make me laugh simply by calling me ‘Fromage’ on account of the cheese jokes we both enjoyed over meal times. But this time he looked deadly serious. There I was twisting, wobbling and sweating, trying to stay focused.
He crouched down by my side and brought his face very close to mine. He stared into my eyes and said, “You are better than you think you are.”
Immediately I lost it. Hot tears streamed down my face. My pose went out of the window.
It’s funny, I’ve listened to a podcast recently with Ryan Spielman and other Mysore teachers where they say that when you see someone practicing on a mat, that’s the real person. When people practice, it’s an opportunity to see the person as they really are – their true self – compared to the person you may have a chat with at the end of a class.
Michel knew that I needed to hear those words. And for this, I am grateful.
Who would you like to say this to?
“We have to learn how to be non-violent towards ourselves. If we were able to play back the often unkind, unhelpful and destructive comments and judgements silently made towards our self in any given day, this may give us some idea of the enormity of the challenge of self-acceptance.
If we were to speak these thoughts out loud to another person, we would realise how truly devastating violence to the self can be.
In truth, few of us would dare to be as unkind to others as we are to ourselves.”