Monday, 3 December 2012


Gratitude seems to be one of the few transformational practices that unites people beyond beliefs and words—beyond nation, race, and tribe. It is really this simple: When you have a heart full of gratitude, your behaviour is positive and kind, and when your heart is full of negative emotions, it is because you have lost your gratitude.  
~ Max Strom

Max opened our second day of workshops by asking ask to let go of any urge of competitiveness during our practice; being competitive is entirely counterproductive to the practice of yoga.  This message needs to be spread further – to everyone who thinks that yoga should be an Olympic sport; to everyone who has caused themselves serious injury trying to emulate the posture of the yogi on the mat next to them; to everyone who is simply coming to the mat to practice yoga for the very first time. 

Part-way through our marathon practice with Max which I’m fairly sure was bordering on 100 minutes, I considered just how hot and sweaty I was, just by the power of the heat I was generating in my own body by focusing on powerful breathing and repeated energetic postures.  When I think of all the time I spent in a sauna practicing Bikram for the same effect, I wish I’d met Max sooner.  The practice was apparently designed to open the chest to allow for emotional release… I can assure you my chest definitely felt like it had been cracked open by the end of it! 

After a well-earned lunch break, we returned to find tissue boxes being distributed around the room.  Tissues?  Why tissues?!  Was there too much sniffing going on?  Oh no, apparently we were all going to be crying.  Fabulous…
The second half of the afternoon was dedicated to Max’s forgiveness workshop.  This brings up a lot of emotions in a lot of people.  We were asked to consider anger as an infectious disease, one that we pass on to other people, especially from parent to child.  When you’re angry at one person, you’re angry at everyone and we spread our anger around. 

Max led a meditation in which he asked us to imagine ourselves at 8 years old, in the living room of our childhood home.  Because so many people have at least one troubled parent, he asked us to imagine that parent and visualise them making the decision to heal and let go of their anger.  There was a bit more to it than that but you get the gist.  Within a couple of minutes, I could hear the tissues being ripped out of their boxes.  Sniffles and sobs echoed softly around the studio.  So the tissues were a good idea then. 

Because living with anger is an addictive habit/lifestyle, it’s very difficult to move beyond, and Max suggested that when you, or someone you know, is blocking love and forgiveness, it’s time to look to gratitude, as gratitude leads to compassion and humility, which eventually leads to forgiveness and the release of anger. 
How important is it to embrace forgiveness if you want to be a yoga teacher?  Pretty bloody important I’d say.  Teaching yoga means offering a life of service and we serve others best by forgiving ourselves. 

Normally, I don’t rush to purchase a copy of a master teacher’s book, but I definitely want to read Max’s latest book, A Life Worth Breathing.  Thank God for the Vancouver Public Library system…


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