If you listen carefully, you just may hear the explosion as my head blows off my body…
I am attempting to assimilate all of the new information tumbling about my mind after a very full weekend at the Yoga Conference and Show in Toronto.
During my time at the conference, I experienced an array of workshops. They were as diverse as The Business of Yoga and The Prevention and Healing of Injuries Through Yoga, and as specific as The Safest and Most Effective Way to Support Oneself in Plank/Chaturanga (a challenging pose for most of us!), to The Structuring of Yoga Classes for Teens.
My mind and body attempted to absorb the myriad of yoga tools, techniques and knowledge presented to me.
Fantastic! …Right? Well yes, mostly, except that a part of me is feeling very overwhelmed. I’m working hard to reconcile new ideas and concepts (which are in some ways contradictory to those I have learned from teachers past) and “myths” prevalent within the yoga industry itself. Suffice it to say, a few profound aha moments have left me reeling and quite honestly, a little frustrated.
Let me explain, and chances are, whether you are a yoga instructor or a yoga student, you may just resonate with this.
In my role of yoga instructor, I find myself struggling with what I have learned about myself as a student, and the very mixed messages/myths that exist in the yoga industry. In terms of being of service to my clients, it is incredibly important to me that I am putting my best foot forward with respect to education and safety. I have also been known to be a little bit of a perfectionist (I like to think I have eased up on this personality trait somewhat over the years, thank you yoga), and at times, I feel inadequate if I do not have exactly all of the “right” information at my fingertips.
So now I ask you: how often have you been to a yoga class where you have been guided in the alignment of a posture, only to go to a class elsewhere and have another instructor cue you differently on the exact same posture? It happens…a lot, right? Confusing? You bet.
As we all know, yoga has evolved over centuries; today there are many forms being offered, each with a different focus, foundation or application.
Combine that with the fact that yoga has become more “mainstream” and that science and technology have permitted a greater understanding of the anatomy and biomechanics of yoga and its resultant influences upon the human body. As early as 25 years ago, the anatomy of the body was really not a consideration in the practice of yoga (Yoga Anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, 2nd Edition, 2012), which is kind of mind boggling when you think of it! It is no wonder we are experiencing an explosion of new teachings out there in yoga land.
At the conference, I had the opportunity to participate in Leslie Kaminoff’s workshop on the Prevention and Healing of Injuries in Yoga. Leslie, is the co-author of the book Yoga Anatomy (the 2nd edition just released in 2012) and in my opinion a must-read.
To be honest, I left Leslie’s workshop with more questions than answers… with new insights, debunking some key yogic concepts. Talk about head spin. So much so, that I was compelled to speak with Leslie afterwards, specifically about the concerns I outlined above—how do I reconcile this new information with my current understandings, and can I feel confident that I am keeping my clients (and myself) safe in such a dynamically changing industry?
His response was simple, but brilliant! Have a read:
I am not suggesting you take everything I have presented to you today, and immediately take it back to your students in class on Monday. That would be like my sharing the fact that I had a good meal at a restaurant; not by recommending you try out the restaurant, but instead by regurgitating the food for you. Take time to ponder the new information you have received. Practice it yourself, try it on, and if it feels right, you will find your own language to articulate it and it will be authentic. The fact that you are here yourself as a student, that you remain open and willing to continue your own education, and ask key questions, that is what will make you a great teacher.
Of all that I learned the past few days, this was by far the most profound.
So, where does this leave us? For consideration, we are all students of yoga (your/my teachers included) and in so being, we are each responsible for the deepening of our own practice: for listening, learning, observing, challenging, asking questions, connecting to our bodies and deciding whether or not a particular asana, breathing pattern, instructor, studio or form of yoga, feels good and is ultimately right for our bodies.
Do not just give yourself over to the teaching, but rather choose to be a participant in your own yoga journey and remind yourself often that it is your practice; you are your own guru.
Julie Thayer Director has been a fitness enthusiast all of her life. She completed her Kinesiology degree at the University of Western Ontario and is a firm believer that personal health and vitality come first—take care of yourself and then you may take care of others (and you will be so much better at it!). Julie pursued her yoga training at the world-renowned White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, CA. With a safety-first approach to the practice of yoga, which promotes joint, spine and neck health, Julie believes yoga is one of the most powerful resources available to individuals who wish to improve their well-being both physically and mentally. Julie enjoys teaching Hatha yoga to all levels of experience and specializes in sport-specific yoga for athletes, particularly runners and cyclists.
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