Every once in awhile I must carry out a part of my role at the studio that, despite how many times I’ve had to do it, never gets easier. The last time I had such an experience was late last year.
A Moksha Flow session was about to begin on a perfectly chilly December’s eve. After the instructor for the class gave the call into the change rooms to notify any remaining students of their class beginning, I had heard a voice in the men’s change room talking, prompting me to follow it. Entering the change room, I witnessed the student finishing a phone conversation and appearing very disconcerted. I alerted him that the instructor needed to begin the class and was waiting for him. I also politely reminded him that any electronic device use was prohibited in the change rooms. He immediately apologized, explaining that he is a medical surgeon who just received a call from his hospital about a very young patient experiencing a negative reaction to a transplant procedure he had recently performed. I responded empathetically as he exited the change room, heading toward the practice room. Noticing he was still holding his phone, I reminded him that any phones in the practice room must be turned off completely. His reply was a benevolent yet confident explanation of how he was now on emergency call for his compromised patient. He displayed obvious expectation that his circumstance would be an exception to this studio protocol. I quickly explained that it is MYBW mandate to shut off cell phones in the practice room. He was clearly surprised at my lack of favour for his situation, again expecting exception for his personal/professional circumstance. I explained that I’ve had similar experiences in the past from students expecting equal exception, such as midwives on call and nervous new moms relying uneasily on babysitters, yet no exception could or would be provided.
His facial expression immediately became a mix of distress and disappointment as he appeared to be on the verge of tears. Yoga practice was undoubtedly the medicine this doctor needed in that moment. He took a deep breath, softly saying “OK, I understand”, and went to change his clothes and gather his belongings. The instructor gave him a smile of appreciation and walked toward the practice room to begin the class. On his way out, I thanked him for his sacrifice. He gently smiled and nodded.
Only yesterday I encountered this student for the first time since our difficult incident occurred. He was exiting the studio building as I was entering. As our eyes met, he raised a cell phone in his hand and told me that today was his first opportunity to truly practice yoga in the studio since our uncomfortable episode months before. He beamed a huge smile and thanked me and I moved in to hug him. As he hugged me back, I felt a deep sense of humility toward this human being. Despite making the majority of his time on this planet an act of humble service to others by way of his on-call medical practice, his selfless service extended even further by respecting the etiquette of Moksha Yoga Bloor West. He supported all the students with which he shares this numinous space.
For many, the practice room of a yoga studio is their church. It is the one space where they come for physical and mental refuge; their one space where they may grant permission for the connection of spirit to emerge. Over the years, many have shared with me that those four walls at MYBW contain the stillness, calm and safety which they are unable to find anywhere else in their lives. The last time I attended a traditional church service, the resemblance of cell phones was still the fantastic material of a Star Trek TV episode, so I don’t know what is protocol in other spirited spaces. I do know that in order to give time to others we sincerely care about, we too need to give ourselves time that is sincerely and completely for us, as individuals.
I’m grateful to all the students who understand, appreciate and respect the sacredness of our practice room, though I feel the need to particularly dedicate this letter to all those who in some way support our students by enabling them to come to ‘shut off’, to practice, and to return to themselves.
See you in the practice room,