Building Community Through… Yoga?

One of the things I will miss most about St. Louis when my fellowship ends this year is the spinning and yoga studio I go to almost every day. My beloved yoga teacher creates such a welcoming community, and this year I have been motivated to practice yoga in a way that I have never experienced before. But I’m an introvert, so even though I have felt totally welcomed at this gem of a yoga and spinning studio, I rarely initiate small talk with the other women in my yoga class. Recently I started going to class on Tuesday mornings. It’s early, but it’s ALWAYS worth it. This morning was no exception.

Julie, my yoga teacher, is an excellent teacher. She’s also a talker. So while we began our practice with some gentler yin yoga poses to wake up our connective tissue (sounds fancy, right?), Julie struck up a conversation about school. It came up that I was going to grad school this fall, and one of the other women in the class asked me what degree I was going to get. “It’s an MFA in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities,” I said. She said, in a surprisingly enthusiastic (and not the usual confused) tone, “That’s really interesting!” And then we went on with our yoga practice. In addition to providing a welcoming, energizing community, yoga had amazed me this year. Practicing yoga in this place with this teacher has helped me unlock the strength and confidence to do a headstand. I have multiple memories of classes with Julie in which I’ve surprised myself and broken through fear or tension or a combination of both.

The real breakthrough moment of the morning came after class. We had offered each other “Namaste” and rolled up our mats. A couple of the women approached me on my way out and wanted to learn more about the program I’m starting in August. I surprised myself with how calmly, concisely and patiently I was able to articulate the answers to their questions. Usually, explaining my work as a teaching artist to people outside of our field brings about a lot of anxiety. I put pressure on myself to be concise and choose the words that will make them understand it immediately. But that just breeds more anxiety, and I end up garbling my words something fierce. Plus, the work that we do is not that simple. It’s not black and white. And that’s okay. Why should it be? The work that we do challenges, motivates and inspires. When you fill your life with work that is as expansive, dynamic and creative as what we do, it’s natural to struggle with distilling that passion and enormity into an elevator speech.

I share this story with you because I believe it’s important that we, as artists, paint a picture of what we do. It’s another way of sharing that magic that draws us to this wonderful line of work. I was so thrilled this morning that the women in my yoga class even WANTED to know more about what I do. It was so wonderful to have an articulate answer.

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