Rewind 20 years: I muster up the guts to walk over to the man who introduced me to Yoga (through the video Yoga Mind & Body) in a cafeteria at a Yoga conference in Colorado.
When I had the chance to take my first class live and in person with Erich Schiffmann, I did everything I could to make it happen.
Years prior to that moment, I couldn’t wait to receive the latest issue of Yoga Journal in order to absorb every detail of his sequence and instruction in his Asana Column. I would grab the magazine like it was what I had been waiting for all my life, and, with my boyfriend, bolt to our favorite coffee shop in Boston. Nestled into an oversized leather chair (hey, it was the ’90s), I would devour Erich’s articles, savoring every word. Needless to say, I felt a strong connection!
In his class that day, I heard him speak in the same language that had resonated with me so deeply both in that first Yoga video and when I read his Asana Columns. Using words like “wriggle” and “wobble,” Erich’s language was consistently free, descriptive, playful, accurate, and sensory, drawing me home to being present within my body. In class with him, it was easy to get timeless, feel spacious and free, and simply be happy within myself. He speaks in a way that makes you feel the meaning of the words expressed.
After his class, feeling light and giggly (those Dali Lama giggles), my Yoga teacher friends and I were sharing our thoughts together in the cafeteria. As you probably already know about me, I’m big into having fun, and in that moment the big fun deal was asking Erich about his unconventional yet ultra clear cuing. As I approached him, I was for sure nervous. Erich has a ginormous presence—not only is he energetically huge, expansive, and super impressive to be around but he is also, physically, SUPER TALL. But I had no choice; I had to be brave and ask my question out loud to my teacher.
“Hi Erich, I’m Alie. What’s the difference between wobble and wriggle?”
There may have been more to it than that, but Erich looked back at me, and without skipping a beat responded, “What do you think the difference is?”
I replied back, “Well, it seems like to wriggle is more specific and deliberate, and to wobble is more loose and relaxed.”
“Exactly!” Erich said.
The whole scene was hilarious, and I felt like I knew him, the way you feel like you know someone who is being honest with you, someone who is sharing themselves with you. His words, his presence, his communication have always felt genuine, authentic, and accessible to me. Erich is Yoga, or Conscious Union with What Is. He is the clearest person I have ever met. Erich teaches through example, and by encouraging and supporting inquiry and daily, moment-to-moment practice, he also taught me that I am my closest point of connection with the experience of Yoga. An ethical teacher shows you that you have the answer within yourself; you are what you have been searching for; you have full access to discovering the fullness/wholeness of your Being.
Being present with yourself is not easy, and that’s where most people, myself included, get distracted. Yet I believe that we are here to support each other and bear witness to the truth of what is as a shared experience. It seems that there is a beautiful mystery of life—the interconnectedness, the personal responsibility, the choice, and the free flow. Being present with what is, minus the mental labels of what we think we know, is a totally whoa whoa moment that can reveal the essence of the beautiful blue sky, the fragrant green grass, the sweet white doggie, the lovely mother, the supportive and fun-loving community, and the wonderful friend and teacher. I am truly blessed to share the experience of life with them all.
xo + Love,