Relinquishing Analysis to Harvest Richer Exploration.
The yoga classes I am most drawn to are the ones I unquestionably trust.
I have faith that the sequence I am guided through is physically appropriate and have comfort in knowing that my inner exploration, in all of its manifestations, is protected. It is this feeling of trust that enables me to move through my practice with self-awareness, inquiry, attention and compassion.
About the time I realized I wanted to guide people through yoga, I became more analytical of class structure. Some of my attention naturally veered away from my own body’s movements and focused instead on the ways in which poses built off of one another in a sequence and the delivery of cues.
The subtleties and differences among yoga styles, instructors and communities intrigued me. As an aspiring instructor, I felt compelled to consider the qualities I might want to encompass in my teaching style and to contemplate the type of space I hoped to foster for my future students.
When I traveled to Spain for a three-month internship, it seemed largely important for me to attend yoga classes. I had practiced daily in the U.S. and wanted to at least minimally fill my void of homesickness (or rather “studio-sickness”) with the familiarity of asana practice and a yoga community. I went to a range of classes by a variety of teachers, in both English and Spanish.
While each and every practice served as a learning experience to further realize what qualities, transitions, and cues I might want to convey as a future teacher, the benefits I typically gained from a yoga class were not nearly as strong as usual. I did not always get up from savasana with a calmer mind or clearer body nor did I experience the same amount of emotional release and spiritual connection.
My cerebral mind seemed to dominate my practice, analyzing my surroundings and working on overdrive to make choices that were suitable for me.
The knowledge I had acquired about yoga seemed to act as a culprit, steering me away from the trust I had innately had as a beginning yoga practitioner and leading me to question whether or not the particular class could possibly deepen my own personal practice. While I understood that every teacher, style and experience could serve me in some way, the practical benefits I gained from class seemed separate from the deeper benefits I had previously felt in my yoga practice.
I ended up attending one class each week and beginning a home practice, where I had the liberty of formulating my own sequences, meditations and pranayama practices. The combination of classes and a home practice brought me balance and comfort amidst the hectic lifestyle of living in another country.
However, the entire time I was there, a part of me yearned for the profound experiences I had gotten from my yoga classes in the U.S. My analytical mind remained in the backdrop of sequences and instructions despite my efforts to surrender it.
Truthfully, I never fully trusted that the classes in Spain would lead me into spaces I had not already explored.
It was not until I recently attended a therapeutic yoga class primarily attended by older adults that I realized the opportunity for every class to not only serve as a learning tool, but also as an invitation to clear my body and mind just like any other practitioner in the room. About midway through the class, the instructor embedded the phrase “Trust in the process brings you closer to the goal.”
The words had an immediate effect on me. By relinquishing my assessment of cues, poses, and instructions, I allowed myself to open to the emotional, spiritual, and physical invitations of the class. Tiny crevices of my body that typically go ignored in my regular Vinyasa flow classes received great attention and my breath grew deeper. I was guided into an exploration that was new and an awareness that felt refreshing.
We hope to use our own experiences with yoga to share even the smallest amount of clarity, peace and love with others who inhabit this world with us. By carrying such knowledge and passion, we pay attention to the ways in which yoga is delivered. This analysis can paradoxically occupy our minds and prevent us from experiencing the truest benefits of yoga when we practice with a new style, instructor or community.
There is huge value in experimenting with different yoga styles and instructors. The process of widening one’s scope of practice brings out perspective, insight and knowledge that simply cannot be gained from practicing entirely within a familiar context.
In such moments of inquiry and exploration, it is important to remember that trust, not analysis, of the process of yoga reveals the most genuine experience and the most fruitful lessons to nurture yourself and your students.
Nadine Channaoui ([email protected]) is an aspiring yoga teacher who practices and studies in Boston, MA. Along with a yoga obsession, Nadine has the travel bug and has spent time living in Argentina, Bolivia, and Spain. She has rolled out her mat in five different countries over the past two years, which leads her to this advice for fellow traveling yogis: learn some Sanskrit, that way, when class is taught in a different language, you won’t have to look around every two seconds to see what’s going on!
Editor: Elysha Anderson