July 13, 2012

Top Five Yoga Pet-Peeves. ~ Amahl Majack

Amahl Majack

Let me start by saying that I love my yoga-studio.

I have a great respect for the knowledge, courage and passion of all of my yoga teachers, past and present.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to discuss with you the things that are prone to drive me absolutely insane during a given class. Look, I know it’s borderline-blasphemous to be sitting (or squatting, or twisting) during my practice, and thinking about how annoyed I am with said aspect of said practice. But, there are a few things that get me every time:

1. I know you can count and talk at the same time. I love a good anatomical tip in class. It’s great to be reminded to slide my shoulders down my back, keep length in my neck, tuck my tail-bone under or pull my lower-belly in.

What I don’t love, is when we’ve all been squatting in utkatasana (chair pose) for 15 seconds while our teacher instructs us into magazine-worthy versions of the posture and then he starts counting. “One?!” What do you mean “One?!”

2. Phrases like, “Shine your heart forward”.  What the hell does this mean? It’s all too romantic and fluffy for me. I spend too much time in my head as it is. In class, I want get out of my head and into my body. I don’t want to be deciphering phrases better suited to a Nicholas Sparks book.

For me, phrases like, “shine your heart forward” and “lift off and soar” are poor substitutes for phrases like, “broaden your collarbone, drop your shoulders, and remember to breathe.” Give me some practical direction people! Also, by my 20th chaturanga there ain’t nothin’ “shiny” about my heart. Except maybe the boob-sweat.

3. Adjustments that take a good 30 seconds, while the rest of us are squirming with agony. OK, perhaps the agony part is a bit of an exaggeration. Yes, I know the yogic philosophy of ‘honoring my body’ would have me simply back out of the pose when I’ve had enough, but that doesn’t always fly with me.

Part of my personal practice is centered around cultivating discipline; on not giving up when something gets difficult. So while you’re over there holding Stu’s ankle and speaking in low tones, I’m torn between forgoing my intention and honoring my limits.

At the same time, I’m not a tyrant. Everyone deserves an adjustment from time to time, and a trained eye is part of the reason we attend class. So, I can be flexible on this one (do we have to acknowledge the pun?) and simply ask that you don’t whisper your advice to Stu. Are you telling him to internally rotate his thigh or press through his heel? Chances are that tip can also help someone else.

4. Sadistic instructors. There’s always one, isn’t there? Half the time, we call it upon ourselves. We show up at her 5:30 class knowing she’ll kick our asses; and she’ll do it with that Cheshire-cat grin on her face. She’s teaching you a lesson, or rather, hoping you’ll teach yourself a lesson, by backing out if it gets to be too much. She’s asking you take your ego out of the picture and, perhaps today, lower your arms a bit… if, that is, you just can’t take it anymore. Her intentions are pure, but why does she seem to enjoy it so much?

5. Everyone bowing “namaste” to everyone else. This gesture is wonderful in theory. To acknowledge one another this way, with genuine goodwill and graciousness, is a beautiful way to end a class. In practice however, this too, only serves to stress me out.

Where do I start? What if I’m turned around and I miss someone’s eye? Do I go in order? What if I skip someone? It feels silly to admit, but this sweet offering feels a bit overwhelming in my post-yoga haze.

In truth, these pet peeves say a lot more about me than they do about any of my instructors. In examining this tendency to become easily flustered, even in this most serene of settings, I can see that my relativity short-fuse and my anxiety and fear of losing control are often mirrored in the things I do and create.

Instead of allowing myself to feel annoyed, I know I should use these moments as an opportunity to grow, and to cultivate patience.

I should surrender to the fact that I am not in control, and I should learn to love that feeling. I should give myself over, gratefully, to the idea that the beauty of life is often in its wonderful unexpectedness—but for now, I’m just going to grin (maybe a bit wildly) back at that sadistic instructor—and bear it.

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Amahl Majack has completed her 200hr certification in the Rasamaya style of yoga. She currently lives in New Hampshire’s seacoast and works as a web-copywriter and SEO strategist. Despite her frequent yoga practice, Amahl has a tendency to become a bit crotchety, and relies way too heavily upon her two cats for respite from the daily grind. You can find her online at: www.amahlmajack.com.



Editor: Carolyn Gilligan

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