For years, I was a perpetually late yogini. I would rush in a few minutes after class had begun, stealing glances at the clock and at everyone sitting in Sukhasana (Easy Pose). While the other students were focusing on their goals for the day's practice, I would noisily settle myself in the back of the room, wondering why I felt rushed instead of peaceful.
I realize now that I must have distracted the other yogis, who were using the first minutes of their practice to center themselves in the here and now. I didn't realize that by arriving late I was subconsciously demanding their attention and denying myself (and them) a chance at finding calm. I didn't realize that I would never find the peace I was seeking when I came to class unless I used those first few moments to sit down and switch off.
My teacher never mentioned my tardiness. Instead, she ignored the harried latecomer nearest the door, the woman always out of breath who sprinted through asanas like a cheetah. And then one day, a funny thing happened—I arrived on time.
As the teacher guided us through an opening Pranayama, my breaths grew deeper and my muscles relaxed. Arguments with my boss, my full inbox, unanswered emails—all of the stresses of the day became less present with each exhalation. When we rose from the mat, my breath was slow and steady. I focused on the pull of each pose, the peace in each pause. The teacher, as if seeing me for the first time, came over to adjust my Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). As I felt the heat of her palm on my back, I was awash with a calm so intense that my life outside the studio disappeared. From that day on, I have never missed the opening sequence.