Watching the lady’s neck about to snap.

Via on Aug 15, 2011

Today I got schooled in yoga class by a real, shall we say….Kali Durga?

I was on my mat, being a student in a friend’s sweat-tastic class this morning, blissfully unaware of my fellow students as I moved through my practice.

We’d moved into partner headstands, and all of a sudden, my own anatomy geek Spidey sense went off: I could sense a potential injury waiting to happen over to my left.

I looked, and there was a woman trying to get into her headstand, as her total beginner partner tried gingerly to hold her hips up. This yogini was rushing at her pose in a way I haven’t seen before, and hope never to again. Instead of bringing her knees in, building the arm and core strength that is the foundation of a safe neck in this pose, she was attempting to pike up with straight legs…not smoothly nor with control, but by jumping, over and over again like a pogo stick. Her neck was taking all the pressure, and it was jarring to behold, much less to be her poor body.

Now, usually, I keep my mouth shut in other people’s classes. We can’t catch everyone’s misalignments, and I respect that when I come to class, I’m there to learn…not to teach.

But watching that lady’s neck about to snap, I couldn’t take it anymore and blurted out, “You might try taking your knees into your chest first to….”

and I was about to say “to build up the foundation and core of the pose before attempting straight legs,” but she cut me off at the pass.

“I’m not trying to do it with bent legs,” she snapped. “I’m working on straight legs, and right now, I have to jump to get it.”

Then she and her partner looked at me like they worked at a swanky store and I was Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman on Rodeo Drive. They turned away and never looked back.

Now, obviously, I was trying to help, since in this case, what she doesn’t know could hurt her…

but when I got that response, it reminded me of an old saying:

“Save your breath to cool your own porridge.”

The catty Sicilian in me also thought of another quote, this time from Iceland:

“There are many wonders in a cow’s head,”

but luckily it was far enough into class that I was able to resist the urge to fly at her sideways, feet first, like a ninja, screaming, “I’ll show you straight legs!”. No, I put my guns back in the holster, and decided to CTFO (chill the f&%k out).

Back to the first quote.

I felt shamed and indignant after reaching out with concern; angry toward this stranger who dissed me when I actually held a key to her growth.

It was her loss—after all, if she wants to headstand with straight legs, she’d be better off backing off to go deeper—bend the legs, gain arm and core power, and also work on her tight back body. Releasing her hamstrings and back was the other key to getting the hips back far enough and legs walked in far enough to create a more healthy lever at the pelvis, instead of straining the low back or potentially hurting her neck.

It’s been a source of lifelong amazement to me how often we dismiss or resist our teachers, whether they appear as our family, partners, friends, or some seemingly random encounter on a mat or a street or any old where. I do it too, whenever I think I know everything, and discount others who may have another perspective, even if it would help me get where I say I want to go.

Yet the study of yoga has taught me that all we can do, and this is a very big “all”—is to do our own work: be the most of ourselves, the most present, the most alive, the most brave and the most available to walk our own path when the next avenue appears.

It’s a secret of life that we could all probably back way off of other people, retract the claws of worry and control from all but what we can master: the quality with which we show up in each moment, and the actions we choose to take from there. If people are ready and willing to receive advice, they’ll ask for it. Still, it’s not up to us to take their process over, but to give a word of encouragement, or a statement of support for them as they do their own work—not you.

So, after that headstand exchange, I just circled back onto my own mat, and got back to business: the full time job that it is to be me. In a sweet twist of fate, part of the business of being me happened to coincide with just enough time for me to do a slow, light, headstand sequence, complete with straight legs up, down, splits, Tripod into Crow, and back up again.

Although part of me felt like Julia walking back into that same store as a rich woman dressed to the nines, and watching the salesgirl’s mouth drop open, but mostly I really wanted to do it. I just sent her good wishes, and silently thanked her for bringing up the very lesson I had to learn today: to stop butting in, and instead, lead by example, where the best possible outcome can occur for everyone involved.

Do I wish she would have been open to my suggestion? Of course. Yet it’s not my place to say what her path should be. Perhaps she’s meant to hurt herself and then learn her own lesson that way. Had I been doing my own practice instead of looking at hers, I would have been doing the pose she was aiming for, and she might have asked me about it then. We’ll never know but, for me, the point was well taken.

What’s delightful is that after class, this guy I hadn’t even noticed came up to me and said, “Thank you for your dedication—I’m new to yoga and I was able to follow your poses whenever I felt confused. And, if you don’t mind me asking…how do you get into that headstand?”

“Well,” I said, grinning…

…let me show you”.

About Sadie Nardini

Sadie Nardini, is the founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, an anatomically-optimized flow style that gives you more results and benefits for every minute spent on your yoga mat. She is a holistic anatomy geek, healthy hedonism advocate, yoga expert, author, and TV host who travels internationally bringing empowering tools to yoga teachers and students everywhere. Her new book, The 21-Day Yoga Body: A Metabolic Makeover, Life-Styling Manual to Get You Fit, Fierce and Fabulous in Just 3 Weeks! (Random House), is out now, and her TV show, Rock Your Yoga, is playing across the country on the new Veria Living Network. With Sadie, you'll sweat, laugh, learn, and come away transformed, informed, and inspired anew. Learn more at www.SadieNardini.com.

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33 Responses to “Watching the lady’s neck about to snap.”

  1. Cassie says:

    Sadie you are amazing. :D Thanks for the unexpected laughs and the brilliant wisdom! I'm going to run, not walk, to your website and watch one of your sessions thru download.

  2. Rommy says:

    Great insight Sadie! I stopped casting my pearls a while back. I'm liking the new to me acronym, CTFO.

  3. Jonelle Roman says:

    Fantastic read Sadie. Thank you.

  4. Beth says:

    How fabulous!! I love when those moments happen – the shock/hurt/indignation that lead to a reminder of how we would like to be – being able to move past that and recenter. and that wonderful cherry on top of the universe giving you a student who wanted to learn what you wanted to teach :) and maybe he wouldn't have felt comfortable coming up to you if he hadn't witnessed your generosity in trying to help someone else.

  5. Bonnie says:

    "there are many wonders in a cow's head" – oh my, that sums it up perfectly! thanks Sadie!

  6. Jessica says:

    Thank you Sadie, that hit home!
    I need to work on me and let others work on themselves. If they want my advice, hopefully they ask for it open minded and don't snap my head off. :)

  7. Yogini5 says:

    Sadie, thanks again.

    Interesting post. Really, the straight leg approach is only for if it feels "easy" or natural to do with control. Layperson, beginner partner could not have begun to help her. It seems the partner may have been the one with the beginner's mind and not this lady, although I could only guess, since he was just assisting …

    Mindfulness and ahimsa were in short supply, if at all, in her attempts.

    As Beth said, the man noticed your generosity. Good for him in his asking you. And despite the otherwise off-putting display of virtuosity on your part, but whathehey, I'm finally—officially—not in such a comparison mode anymore …. since switching to a mellow hatha style I really resonate with …

  8. Joe Sparks says:

    Great article! I like how well you recovered from the experience. You could of taken it personally, and thought negatively of them for a long time. Instead you learned a valuable lesson for yourself, and was able to share, heal from the situation.
    I teach yoga and running. When I see runners, pounding the pavements, I cringe! Would love to stop them and show them a more elegant way to move their body. Then I realize, they are adults, not kids who would need my guidence to protect from injury Plus, a lot of us had adults who where not patient with us during the learning process. This kicks up feelings in all of us. TodayI learn so much from making my own mistakes, it is repeating them, where I could use some help.
    Plus, do not let this stop you in the future, from helping someone, who is struggling. Each situation and person is unique. We just have to get good at trusting our thinking and be willing to try and sometimes not be successful. There is no situation in which a person does not deserve your delight.

  9. Kimberly says:

    Beautiful! Aside from the asanas…yoga has taught me to be open to every single, sometimes painful, moment as a time to reflect and learn. You nailed it…it is not what we (as teachers) can teach them but what they teach us. When we do our own work we ultimatley become more available to our students. xoxo!

  10. Priscila says:

    You did the correct thing. You intention WASN'T out of arrogance nor pride. You wanted to avoid something terrible to happen. Like you said: its her choice to take your advice or not. If something would have gone wrong at least you could have said, you tried to avoid it – which at the end is better than watching and doing nothing. If the real intention is to help, why should we change our behaviors and attitudes due to the lack of awareness and thankfulness of others? She is the one who should change her behaviors and mindset from one of pure pride and arrogance to one of receiving gratefully all what comes her way. Just deliver the message – it's up to the receiver.

  11. Soulful Stretch says:

    As a teacher I can totally relate and you are spot on Sadie AGAIN! And as a gal that loves her Porridge…I will steal that quote.

  12. Teri says:

    Thank you Sadie! Wow! The poor yogini threw away a winning lottery ticket without knowing she was a winner by letting her ego get away. Not only did she put herself at risk of injury, but she missed out on receiving useful insight. Humility and wonder will serve the other yogi well in the end. Thanks for the reminder, the perspective, and my theme for next week!!!!

  13. Lapalmzy says:

    Great lesson! You're awesome Sadie,and a great inspiration to me and thousands of others I'm sure!!

  14. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the suggestions, Sadie. I'm guilty too, but welcome your corrections!

  15. tanya says:

    just one thing – if anyone acted like Kali(and)Durga it was you and that is why I LOVE ur teaching ….acting fiercely from your heart, developing and using right instruments for obstacles along ur path (Durga) of total transformation (Kali) … brava sadie lady !

  16. Tanya Lee Markul tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  17. OmChantress says:

    Yikes! Sometimes what I see people doing in the name of yoga is terrifying. What a great post, though. Thanks for your fierceness and honesty!

  18. Jen Nelson says:

    As a bodyworker myself, I am now daydreaming about you running into that woman several weeks from now with a neckbrace on, and you quoting Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and just saying "Remember me?… BIG mistake. Huge!" Alas, I digress. I do think we have a responsibility sometimes to jump in where people might get hurt, BUT we can only do so much. Your fair warning was all you could do.

    The ninja-fantasy would have been cool, though ;)

  19. Juneous says:

    Excellent Article! I also had to learn to do the same thing. I think it was my ego that was getting in the way of me wanting to fix people. I had to learn that if people wanted help, they will let me know.

  20. Melanie says:

    Loved this post!! It made me stop and think–do I try to fix/help people who don't want my help. Also made me think about how I receive help from others, as well. I think all to often we all can be the woman who wouldn't accept help. I know, myself, that I need to be more receptive to others ideas. Who knows, I may have someone as awesome as you, helping me do something in a better way than I currently am doing it… Thanks for making me reflect!!

  21. Nancy says:

    Great article & great life lesson! Keep rockin' it sister!

  22. Lorraine says:

    And who was the teacher of the class who did not stop this insanity!?

    • Yogini5 says:

      Yes, just WHERE is the Susan Powter of this fad-yoga age?

      STOP!! THE!! INSANITY!!!!

    • Mads says:

      I think the woman replied something along the lines of… "I need to jump up…" It seems to me that even if the teacher gave advice and instructions on how to get up… even if she maybe demonstrated it… there was no way that women would listen. I think her mind was made up and she was clearly determined to jump no matter what anyone said. At leas that's what it sounds like.

      I would certainly have stopped her if it where my class! I have thought classes where I give verbal instruction and then a demonstration and still, then still talk them through it, but students persist to ignore them. Thoughie, but then I tell them to either listen or get out of my class (in a nice way, because I will not have some one insist on injuring themselves in my class).

  23. Lakshmi says:

    Oh Sadie! This is fantastic really. I love the moment you depict her trying to jump up onto her head like a pogo stick. I burst out laughing. Though make no mistake, there is nothing funny about potential injury due to choosing not to listen to good instruction. It boggles my mind how even when detailed, step by step instruction with modifications and all the juicy secrets of headstand are provided some students choose to ignore, jump, leap and launch themselves up into headstand.

  24. Claudia says:

    Sadie – thanks for that reminder! I have been wondering how to deal with a friend of mine who seems out to make her life a misery. I was at a loss as to how to deal with it any more…until now. I’ll save my breath from now on (unless she asks) and lead by example.

    You’re an absolute joy, Sadie. Love your work!

  25. Beth says:

    Great post!

    I not only like the message about teaching, but feel like there is a great message about being a practitioner of yoga, too. It took me a long time to get into certain poses (headstands included). I at times felt pressured to "get" a pose, but luckily I had teachers who were adamant about doing poses like headstand right (and by right I mean safely). Now, I'm so grateful I took the slow path instead of getting into poses at any cost. Because of this, I've been able to keep doing yoga every day injury free.

    Again, great post!

  26. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  27. guest says:

    sadie, have you tought about HOW you said it rather than WHAT you said? my experience is that when i'm controlling and a know it all, no one wants to hear me. when i'm gentle and i ask if they would like my thoughts on the matter, the other is much more willing to hear me. just a thought.

  28. [...] Watching the lady’s neck about to snap. [...]

  29. guest says:

    I commend you for sticking your neck out for hers. After the defensive response, another approach might be to demonstrate a beautifully controlled bent leg headstand, instead of the straight leg version she is risking her neck trying to imitate.

  30. guest says:

    Unless you're the teacher or a designated assistant, it's never appropriate to correct or adjust other students.

  31. [...] Watching the lady’s neck about to snap. [...]

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