Let’s dissolve the barrier between teacher and student.
It doesn’t matter who we are—studio owner, teacher, student, homeless guy on Wilson–we are all doing the same thing: we are all learning about how we want to live in this world and how we want to build the experience of day to day life—in each moment—as our life unfurls itself to us.
Every single one of us has the right to build yoga as it pertains to us.
And I think every single person should have equal access to the yoga that makes us—as individuals with all our dislocated knees and our spine surgeries and that weird numbness that happens in our left should when we bind–feel good.
And I don’t think we should have to spend three thousand dollars to do that.
If you ever had any uncertainty, I believe these are our rights as students of yoga:
Get curious about the alignment of our own bodies. Every single body works in a completely different way, and it does not matter if we take a teacher training program or not—learning about our bodies in a yoga practice only requires curiosity.
Curiosity means let’s look at the actual alignment of the poses. Let’s look at what abducts from where and what rotation happens here. Let’s look at the principles behind the alignment and how the alignment makes us feel, and create an integrated philosophy of movement.
Let’s pay attention to Tadasana, and use that as a jumping off point to look at other poses.
For example: everything about Warrior 2 is essentially Tadasana except that the front leg externally rotates to 90 degrees. All the other components: the spine, the pelvis, even the back leg (although it moves away from the midline of the body) are in Tadasana alignment.
2. Ask questions
Ask questions when you have them. As you move into a space of curiosity, questions will certainly arise, and the more we can ask questions about our practice and the shapes that we take during practice, the more integrated our experience of living yoga will be.
3. Choose shapes that are right for you
Every verbal cue is not for every person.
I think a lot of times, we take all the verbal cues because we’ve assigned some sort of meaning to them: we are a more advanced yogi if we this thing this exact precise way. This way of thinking has got to go, because essentially what this way of thinking means is that our practice is more meaningful when it meets other peoples’ standards than when it meets our own.
At the bare bottom line: choose shapes that make you feel good.
This means you get to bend any limb whenever you want. I will repeat this: bend any limb whenever you want.
Half moon: bend your extended leg.
Chair Pose: bend and lower your arms (like an awesome gargoyle!).
Forward Fold: bend your knees.
Try shapes you haven’t tried before and really pay attention to the way they make you feel. If we are consistently showing up to the mat and working only in the way that makes us feel strong and open and centered, our practice will open up to us much more quickly than if we show up and take shapes just because we can and we want to prove it to ourselves.
Think about your yoga at line at the coffee shop, think about your yoga the next time you have nothing to do on Youtube, think about your yoga when you people-watch in the park.
Think about the way bodies move and the way bodies feel when they move certain ways.
Notice what other people are reading, notice how other people are moving, go home and do some research.
Youtube is ripe with amazing teachers and tips. YogaJournal.com has asana breakdowns up the wazoo. Elephant journal rocks this shit out on the daily.
If you need suggestions, ask me, ask your friends, ask your teachers, just ask.
4. Find the right teacher
You don’t need a teacher who can pop into a one-armed handstand. You need a teacher who you are comfortable talking to.
Talk to your teacher before class and after class. Let your teacher know what you’re working with in your practice. Show up and say, “Look, dude, I have a tendency to compress my low back all day everyday. Can you give me pointers and take a look at that during class?”
After class, talk to your teacher about what you experienced (wait your turn, though).
Trust me, teachers like it when you talk to them. If they don’t, then frankly, I’m confused.
5. Pay Attention
Pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention. Just show up to your yoga and pay attention.
Figure out what excites you and then walk towards that shit.
We do not need a yoga teacher training program to teach us how huge we are.
Let’s just be huge and if we want to take a yoga teacher training program anyway, then take it anyway.
The quality of our practice should not be predicated on how much money we spend to receive a magic handbook of information.
Engender yourself with the responsibility of your practice.
This is written in the spirit of empowerment for all people–may we each learn what it feels like to love the company we keep inside the walls of our skin, and may we create space for others to walk into that place as well.
With gratitude only, I say the following:
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Ed: Bryonie Wise