Hello from Reykjavik!
If you have not been following along on Instagram or know me personally, I recently packed up my life in Boston and moved it over 2,000 miles to Reykjavik, Iceland. Surprise! You might be asking yourself, "Why?" to which I would respond, "Why not?" But, I can go into more details in a later conversation, as I'd like to share an experience I had shortly after moving here with you all.
During our move, which lasted for about a month between packing everything up in Boston, transporting it all to Indiana to store with my parents, fly to Reykjavik, and get settled in our new home, I didn't really have the chance to practice much yoga. So, it had been quite some time and I was feeling the results of a missed practice. I had quite a few reservations about seeking out a studio in Iceland, though - not knowing how much it would cost, if we would be close to a studio, if the teachers would speak English... Between being nervous about trying out a studio in a foreign country and "being busy settling," I had put off researching studios for several days. Finally, realizing that it's not realistic for me to cut out practicing for the year we plan to live here, I decided to face my fear and just go for it.
So, with my yoga mat, water bottle, and nerves is tow, I headed out on a cloudy morning to a local studio that came highly recommended from friends who have lived here, Yoga Shala. I grabbed one of the buses that took me downtown and arrived in this area that was a mix of industrial and scenic, then walked the rest of the way to the studio.
I arrived at the building with the studio hidden among other businesses, walked the stairs to the third floor, and came to the door. The nerves kicked in a bit more as I began to reach for the handle, not knowing who would be behind it and how they would receive this new girl from the US.
After taking my shoes off and leaving them at the door, I walked in and found two women sitting talking with one another. I walked in, sat my stuff down, and began asking questions, making it abundantly clear that I was an English speaker. The woman who walked me through the orientation of the studio turned out to be the instructor for our class and talked to me about attending a yoga class taught in Icelandic. After being checked and shown around, I scurried off to the locker room to put my stuff away and moved towards the studio. This is where I found one of the most beautiful spaces I've come across.
This picture doesn't do it much justice, as it was a quick snap with my phone before awkwardly running back to the locker room to stow it away before class. The space was full of plants, an altar with a giant Buddha statue, windows covering three sides allowing in tons of natural light, and mountains as the backdrop among the surrounding buildings.
Soon, the teacher entered the room and class began. She spent quite a bit of time in the beginning talking us through seated breath, all of which I had no clue what she was saying. But, after the initial panic thoughts of "I have no idea what she's saying!" and "I'm gonna struggle through this entire class," I began to settle in and noticed the gifts that taking a class in another language can offer. I was able to just be...breath in and out, engage in my own meditation while surrounded by others who are also just being with their breath. I also began to appreciate how beautiful Icelandic can sound. Up until this point, it had just sounded like gibberish to me hearing people speak it out and about, but this was the first time I had the chance to listen to one person, alone, speak it slowly and calmly. It provided a lovely backdrop to the seated breath and inner-focus I was engaged in.
Then, we switched to the flow. Moving to the instruction of another language also allowed some hidden gifts...I had an excuse when I fell behind and stumbled. If I did the wrong thing, turned the wrong way, did the wrong pose, I could just laugh it off as being the one who can't understand what's happening. With this, I found myself letting go of some of the perfection that continues to linger in classes I take back home. I was able to find some additional playfulness in my practice and just followed along to the motions of those around me. I had to trust that the other students knew what they were doing and the instructor to take some extra care in my practice for the hour. Sure enough, I eventually found my groove in our vinyasa flow and even picked up a couple words as we went along, specifically in and út (in and out..easy, right!?).
Before I knew it, the class was winding down; we started the cooldown poses and set up for savasana. Upon getting up from my mat, I noticed that I felt 100 times better than when I walked in the door. I had taken a risk in going to a class where I would not be able to understand the instructor; I had gotten a fantastic workout; most importantly, I was back to yoga. After gathering my belongings, I went up to the instructor and thanked her for saying a few things in English to help me feel included and how easy I actually found it to follow along. I was so thankful to have an instructor who was welcoming, inclusive, and invited me back.
So, here is my question for you, dear reader - what are you holding back on doing? What areas in your life do you allow fear to prevent you from trying new things, going to a new place, creating connections with others? Can you pack your fear up and place it in your back pocket long enough to try something new? I'm not asking you to completely let go of fear; it's there for a reason, to tell you when something is important and you should take some extra care, giving you notice to have some caution. But, as the saying goes, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of it." I was scared the whole time I was on this little adventure, from the moment I began researching studios to the moment I left the class, but I packed it up long enough to try something I knew would likely provide benefits. Then, I treated myself to an extra coffee when I got home, because conquering fears is hard work!
If you're considering trying out a new studio or want to attend a class while traveling, here are a couple of tips to maybe give you the extra push you need:
1. Sanskrit is Sanskrit wherever you go; it's the universal language of yoga. Listen for these words as extra cues, and you'll be fine.
2. Vinyasa is also pretty similar wherever you go. If you've been doing yoga for some time now, chances are there's not going to be anything crazy you've never seen before.
3. Talk to the instructor before the class. Chances are, they will be welcoming of you joining them and may even throw in a couple of words in English to help you out.
4. Even if it doesn't work out, it was one hour of your life. Just take what you can from it and move on.
5. Have some fun with it! You're trying something new, for goodness sakes! Let go of some of the pressure to do things perfectly or appear a certain way. If you totally fall on your face, either people aren't really going to care or even remember or, in the case of traveling, you're never going to be back here again so who cares!?
So, get out there and try that new studio, try that class in a language you don't speak a word of. You'll have the awesome experience of doing something new and changing up the routine.
I'll leave you with a beautiful sunrise we had the other morning over Reykjavik with the thought that had I not pushed beyond my fear of moving to a brand new country I wouldn't have had the chance to see this beauty or have the experience of attending a yoga class taught in Icelandic. Both are pretty cool, don't you think?