Keep Calm & Carry On teaching yoga

Being in nature is not always a pleasant experience. For many people, it is distinctly uncomfortable, even scary. It’s easy to understand why: The wilderness is unwieldy and unpredictable. It involves threatening animals and annoying, biting insects. It doesn’t yield up its secrets easily. It can feel too hot in summer, too cold in winter. From one perspective, it is dirty, muddy, messy, chaotic, disorganized. It’s easy to get lost and it’s difficult to get comfortable. When we don’t know how to manage our fears and discomforts in nature – when we don’t know how to fully participate in and connect with our surroundings – it’s not uncommon for us to feel the impulse to flee to the more obvious comforts of civilization. 

I had the yoga teaching experience of a lifetime the other night. I’m always appreciative of what happens while teaching, but this is sure to stand out in my memory for a long time. We kick off every retreat with yoga, to get people on their mats right away and leave behind all the effort it took to get here. At Cowgirl Yoga Ranch Camp, we practice in a funky open-air yoga studio, that is the next best thing to practicing outside (which is just not a practical plan in Montana, any time of year). We began our practice with a big storm brewing, and I mentioned how we don’t play music in the open air yoga studio, because we often have our own nature soundtrack. Says smug yoga teacher loving the sound and timing of the rolling thunder…little did I know that Montana was about to deliver some serious weather drama.

As the storm intensified and the wind picked up, we kept practicing. The sky grew so dark that it looked like 9 pm instead of 6 pm. The lightning was so bright that it seemed like someone was flashing a strobe light. Do you want to keep practicing or go inside? I asked. Keep practicing. OK. Then the hail started (check out these reader pix submitted to the Bozeman Chronicle). Little pieces of hail that seemed to keep growing. The funky open air studio was taking a beating, small pieces of hail hit yoga mats and blowing rain made its way in to mist us. Do you want to keep practicing? Yes. I wasn’t sure I could make myself be heard over the wind and rain. I told myself, Keep Calm & Carry On teaching.

And then, almost as if on cue, the storm ended when it was time for savasana. I kid you not. The air was still electric with its energy, and with our awe. I’m not going to lie – I was worried at more than one moment during that crazy class. As we closed with Namaste, every face was lit up by a smile. We realized that we had just witnessed the most amazing display of nature…not only that, we had practiced yoga throughout. What a gift.

Montana weather can scare the crap out of you. It can also inspire you like nothing you may have ever felt, and show you things you may have only seen in National Geographic. As everyone shared how much they loved having weather drama be part of our first retreat practice, I was reminded in the best way possible of our desire and need to connect with nature, even when it makes us uncomfortable…and of the power of yoga to help us manage our discomfort. Yeehaw & Namaste.