Living in the now: In praise of a very fine yoga teacher

In praise of a fine yoga teacher who taught her last class at the YMCA today

Frances Jordan is a very fine yoga teacher indeed. Frances encourages people in her classes to be fully present, and happy with the way they are. That’s a challenge for most Londoners…

None of her classes is ever the same. Highly accomplished technically, Frances pays close attention to the spiritual dimension of yoga. She is mindful of the difference between doing some exercises, and real yoga practice. Even in a short class, Frances touches your mind, body and spirit: but how?

Staying fully present

Just when I am beginning to think about my next meeting or what colour to paint the bathroom, Frances will say ‘if your mind has wandered off, come back into the room, and tune in to what your body is telling you.’

Happy as we are

Just when I feel sad that I cannot stretch and bend like some of the more supple people around me, Frances will say ‘and when you are stretching don’t try to force your body to do something that feels uncomfortable – let go of any pride, avoid striving, be happy with your body the way it is.’

Committed to helping people learn, and to developing herself as a teacher

During her classes Frances gives people individual attention. She helps people to find the best position for them, hips facing forwards, shoulders more relaxed, knee behind ankle. But no ego or striving! Frances herself is a continuous learner. When she comes back from a yoga retreat, we all get to experience something of what she has learned.

Careful of people

About a year ago I hurt my back (not doing yoga!). I was nervous about continuing. Frances is one of the few teachers who actively encouraged me to avoid certain positions, and gave me alternatives. I feel safe with Frances as a yoga teacher.

Readings and sayings

During a class Frances often shares writings and sayings that I find nourishing. Readings help me to focus on what matters to me. I remember at the end of the first class I did with her, Frances read us a piece about the value of fluidity, how water is stronger than rock. The sense of it was that knowing how to be flexible under pressure is a far better survival strategy than taking a position, and trying to defend it come what may. At the time, I was under a lot stress at work, and I found this message very helpful.

Today at her last class at the London Central YMCA, Frances shared a saying that that has been going round and round for years. At first I thought it was from self help guru, Karen Salmonsohn, but actually it’s from Lao Tzu. So Frances told me later.

‘If you want to be sad, live in the past.

If you want to anxious, live in the future.

If you want to be peaceful, live in the now.’

Not sad, or anxious, but peaceful

Those of us who suspected it was the last class we would take with Frances got the message. We were not sad or anxious. We were peaceful. Well, until we got back to work.

Living in the Now

Fans of ‘living in the now’ include Charles Flandau, author of Viva Mexico, who wrote:

Life does not consist either or wallowing the past or of peering anxiously at the future; and it is appalling to contemplate the great number of often painful steps by which one arrives at a truth so old, so obvious, and so frequently expressed. It is good for one to appreciate that life is now.

And Novak Djokovic. Interviewed in October 2015 (Lunch with the FT), Djokovic said:

“The first thing is to make sure that you are in the moment,” he answers calmly. “That is much easier to say than to do. You have to exclude all distractions and focus only on what your about to do. In order to get to that state of concentration, you need to have a lot of experience, and a lot of mental strength. You are not born with that. It is something you have to build by yourself.”

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