January 12, 2011

Go Ahead, Ask Me.

Yoga Thoughts on Asking Questions

I absolutely love it when yoga students ask me questions before or after class!  It’s funny, because usually these questions are prefaced with, “I don’t want to bother you …” or “I know you’re trying to get out of here …” or “This is probably a stupid question, but …”  To date, I can honestly say, I’ve never heard a stupid question. (Related to yoga, that is.  My kids sometimes ask stupid questions — “Are we there yet?” being a popular one.)  I can also honestly say, I’ve never been bothered by an outside-of-class question.  To the contrary, a curious student is always a highlight to any time I spend teaching yoga.

One night a student in a beginner’s class pulled me aside to ask about an advanced posture that I had not yet incorporated in our class.  She had seen folks practicing headstand (sirsasana) elsewhere and was curious about it.  We spent a few minutes talking about the different forms headstand can take and how good it is for you to be upside down.  But the best part was that we wound up outside in the grass on a lovely spring night taking turns in the posture!  When I walked into my house afterwards, I had a huge smile on my face.  No matter how you slice it, exploring something you love with someone else is fun!

So why are we hesitant to ask questions?  Why, when you do a search of the word “curiosity” on the internet, is the old adage “Curiosity killed the cat.” listed above Einstein’s “The important thing is never to stop questioning … never lose a holy curiosity.”?  After all, forming questions is a very helpful step in figuring out what we think or believe.  Asking questions is a sure way to grow and to learn.  But there is more.  Questions are also a way to connect with people.  And the gifts of that connection flow both to the asker and the ask-ee.

Having a question answered obviously provides information to the questioner.  It is somewhat less obvious that the answerer also benefits from the exchange.  As a teacher, I love the glimpse a question offers me into a student’s personal practice.  I love getting a sense about where yoga is leading them.  I love the fact that they’re thinking about yoga beyond the time we share.  As someone who truly enjoys people,  I love being given the chance to help someone.  I love the idea that my experiences and knowledge could smooth someone else’s way.  And, as someone who happens to be passionate about yoga, I really love the opportunity to talk about the practice with another person who shares my interest.

The gifts of asking questions are not limited to student/teacher relationships.  Think about the people you most enjoy being with.  Now think about your conversations with them.  I suspect these folks fall into one of two categories – and probably into both.  The first category is made up of people who show curiosity in you.  They ask questions about what you’re doing.  They remember what you’re worried about and check in.  They want to know more about things you enjoy.  Their curiosity about you and your life is a way they show they care for you.  The second category is made up of people who fascinate you.  These are people you have a lot of questions for.  Perhaps what they do interests you.  Perhaps you enjoy what they enjoy.  Perhaps you have a little to offer to help them face their worries.  Your curiosity about them and their life is one way you show that you care.

In a shocking twist (ha!), it turns out that Einstein is right.  We should never stop questioning and never lose our curiosity.  Not only does our curiosity help us learn and grow.  It can also be a gesture of love and concern to the people who fill our lives.  If you have questions, ask them!  If you’re trying to connect with someone, ask questions!  Curiosity breathes life into conversations and relationships.  I suppose, therefore, it’s fitting to share that the oft-forgotten closing to the phrase “Curiosity killed the cat,” is “Satisfaction brought him back.” 

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