Yesterday I went with my friend Kate and my dear friend/columnist Peggy Markel and my longtime advisor buddy John Cargile, from Denver, to the Yoga Workshop’s noon class.
About five minutes in, I couldn’t remember how my shoulders should be turning, and since alignment is vital to safety and to getting the benefits of any said pose, I started asking a question.
The teacher cut me off about three words in and, not entirely gently, said: “all proper alignment flows from the breath, so just relax and focus on the breath.” It was rather shocking, in an all levels noon class (not at all advanced) to see a question smothered…but luckily my Buddhist training kicked in, and I bothered to listen, and take in what she said, instead of getting offended. Instead of getting wrapped up in my thoughts, I managed to listen and obey: to focus on my breath.
Simultaneously, she came over and gently rolled my shoulders outward. Boom: the pose felt right.
And what I learned from that class is that we Americans tend to think of yoga as a service provided for us. My ego was peeved that she didn’t regard my question as a prioity, but rather she regarded my practice as the priority.
A second lesson: without breath, yoga loses its in-the-moment quality of moving meditation, and becomes just another great form of exercise. Her point–breathe and all will follow—is a profound one. Even if, for folks with bad alignment, that may not be totally true, it’s a lesson worth coming back to, again and again.
It was a little moment, but I thought I’d share it.
Photo at top: The Yoga Workshop. Click for great blog.