I teach adaptive yoga to a 46 year-old woman who had a stroke 15 years ago; the stroke left the right side of her body paralyzed. The transformation she has experienced, physically, emotionally and spiritually in one and a half years is amazing.  I am honored to be her guide on this journey.

I recently took this student to a local yoga studio where I teach a gentle noontime yoga class to a group of mostly retirees.  As she watched the variety of students file in she said "I wish you would start the class asking each student to tell us what is wrong with them, they all look perfect to me."  I know this group well; I know their physical limitations, conditions, traumas, and stories.  None of them are perfect, just as none of us are without flaws.  I explained to her I am not a proponent of sharing this information in a group yoga setting.  Many people will not share; they don't want to admit to their limitations.  On the flipside, a few identify and cleave to their stories to closely; no need in encouraging that behavior either.  I began to list the students and their physical limitations.  A gentleman whom has had both knees and shoulders replaced; he is a dedicated to both the physical and spiritual practice of yoga.  A cancer survivor whom has recently attended laughter yoga training.  Several with bad backs, necks, shoulders and hips.  A frail, elderly woman with congestive heart failure; the yoga community is her family and supports her through bouts of severe illness.  A woman with Multiple Sclerosis and fibromyalgia; when she began to practice it was all she could do to walk in with her mat and get situated in the studio; she couldn't complete all of the practice without fatigue.  Another has shared with me her history of trauma and abuse.  Another lost an adult child to cancer.  Each and every one of them have challenges; physical, emotional, and spiritual.  Yet they attend regularly and leave feeling better. Physically they may appear to be fine, but each is flawed and suffering in some manner.

My friend, very conscious of her physical disabilities and appearance, marveled at the ailments and limitations of the seemingly "normal" people, finding some comfort in knowing she was not the only flawed being.

The next time you see a "perfect" student doing a flawless posture take a moment and consider what you may not know about that person.  Our yoga mat gives us the perfect place to let go of our perceptions of ourselves and the labels that others place on us.

A seventy-something year old student in my noon class once said "I feel like I am twenty-one years old when I am doing yoga, when I saw myself in a mirror going yoga I realized how old I am."  I am happy our studio doesn't have mirrors and allows us to feel that lighter, younger self.