While living in Weinfelden, Switzerland, I took classes from a beautiful teacher named Vanessa Schmidt. She had her own school called Yoga Insel (Yoga Island), where she offered Kundalini. Her little school was truly an oasis set amidst a light-industrial office park. The only yoga school in the village of 10,000 people, for me, it was a sanctuary, as well as a saving-grace, being new to the country, as well as to the German language.
Vanessa drew a lovely community of yogis together, with many of her students driving 20 or more kilometers to take her classes. Just like most of us living in the modern Western world, the Swiss have busy lives too. And, as much as we would all like to attend our yoga studio regularly, sometimes, life gets in the way.
One evening, as Vanessa’s class was just about to begin, Yoga Insel’s brightly-painted purple door flung open, and three women rushed in. They were breathless from climbing the four flights of stairs that led to the roof-top studio, as well as wet from the April-night’s rain. As the trio entered, they apologized for being late. While taking off their jackets and shoes, Vanessa went to the door, greeting them with a warm smile and hug.
The students said their hellos to Vanessa, and began to explain too, in unison, why they hadn’t been to Yoga Insel in a while…so busy with work, the kids, an illness, caring for an elderly parent, etc.
The women laid down their mats, joining the semi-circle of practitioners in the center of the studio. Vanessa settled onto her cushion and took a deep breath in…and out, inviting us to do the same. We closed our eyes and sat for a few minutes, just breathing and being, in silence.
Then, Vanessa said softly, “Life is yoga. It doesn’t matter if you’re able to come here or not. Every act, every thought, every word is yoga. There is no need to apologize when the circumstances of life don’t allow you to be here, or elsewhere, on your mat. When you can’t get to your mat, see it as life giving you a different way of practicing your yoga.”