“A photographer gets people to pose for him. A yoga instructor gets people to pose for themselves. ”
~ T. Guillemets
In yoga classes today, a majority of the class consists of yoga poses, but how much are we posing?
I’m not convinced that most yoga students would understand the above quote.
I read an article from Bo Forbes where she makes an interesting observation about a comment from one of her students in a workshop. The student spoke about feeling awkward in yoga, and said that at the end of the session, instead of feeling good, she felt as though her poses weren’t as good as everyone else’s.
Thus, she had a sense that her yoga practice was defective in some ways.
Bo’s insight into this awkwardness was enlightening:
“Feeling awkward is an integral part of learning and healing, but the deck is stacked against us having this important experience. Our current paradigms of learning and of healing favor teacher input. This gives all the responsibility to the teacher. And both paradigms favor prescriptions (of either knowledge or medicine). This discourages us from taking a more inquisitive and experimental approach to learning and healing, which short-circuits the ‘aha’ experiences that transform us.”
What I take from the above statement is that students are compensating and remaining hidden within the depths of their personality to avoid feeling humiliated.
In other words, as Baron Baptiste would say, they are “being a concern for looking good.”
This concern for looking good, whether it be to impress the teacher, the student on the mat next to them or the simple refusal to honor the very personal practice of yoga, robs the practice of the main ingredient that flavors the whole point of getting onto a yoga mat in the first place—that this is a unique experience for you, and you alone to have with yourself, whether that means you feel awkward, frustrated or disinterested, and work with that which arises for you rather then faking your way to the top.
By staying with the feelings that arise for you, insights will surface, revealing more about the truth of your nature, that stuff that really makes you tick, both on and off the yoga mat. These insights are far more rewarding then the over-enthusiasm of a perfectly aligned Trikonasana.
Much of our need to get things right is ingrained in us from an early age through experiences at school.
We become trained to enjoy being rewarded more for getting the right answer than for gaining knowledge from getting the wrong one.
We perhaps need to view our yoga experiences more like being in a Yoga Lab, where we go in as curious scientists, willing to engage in experiments and reflect on how that experiment went in our own personal lab.
Perhaps we can engage in conversation about our findings off the yoga mat, but to compare and decide who got the right result when two people are working in completely different labs with different experiments would defeat the purpose of the experiment.
Discovering awkwardness and frustrations is something to rejoice in rather then run from.
It means we have hit the jackpot in coming across uncharted territories. If we agree to go along for the ride, we just might discover the land of transition and change awaiting us on the other side.
“Yoga has a sly, clever way of short circuiting the mental patterns that cause anxiety. ”
~ Baxter Bell
So the next time you struggle and strain, huff and puff on your yoga mat and you do another chin turn rather then actually learning how to mobilize your spine from your belly, pause, take a deep breath and just remember, this might be the very moment, in your private laboratory, that you are about to create a unique experiment that no one else in the world can create—an intimate experience with you.
Michelle Jayne is a Vinyasa Yoga Teacher in Melbourne, Australia. Dipping her toes into the world of blogging, Michelle hosts yoga retreats and workshops within Australia and overseas. You can find her at http://www.yogaground.com.au.
Editor: Lara Chassin
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