January 17, 2012

But my yoga doesn’t look like your yoga.

image courtesy of sangrea.net

The yoga I practice is a lot different than the yoga I teach.  And I don’t mean the yoga I practice off the mat or anything.  I mean the actual physical asana that I practice on the daily really doesn’t look like the yoga I teach.

The yoga I practice has names like, ‘power vinyasa flow’, ‘twist, twist, twist!’ and ‘OPEN YO HIPS’.  The yoga I teach falls under names like, ‘gentle hatha flow’, ‘therapeutic’ and ‘truly beginners yoga’.  The yoga I practice teaches me strength, courage and persistence.  The yoga I teach teaches me patience, compassion and acceptance.

Since becoming a yoga teacher,  the classes that I’ve taken on and the majority of clients that have come my way have been true beginners.  Not people who have been in and out of studios and are looking to re-connect to their practice, but people who are meeting this practice for the very first time.

They’re young, old, curvy, straight, funny, shy, happy and amazing.  They’re all different in where they’re coming from, but have all come together with a genuine desire to learn yoga.  I love my classes, and where I’ve ended up.  It just wasn’t what I expected coming home from Bali, having been immersed in the practice for weeks, learning how to safely build a sequence up to headstand.

Right from my very first class I had to shed my ideas of what I thought yoga should look like.

The first class I had planned was tossed out the window pretty quickly.  I had spent that morning planning out the flow.  Working out creative ways to weave the standing series into the sun salutations, seamlessly flowing down to the mat and wrapping Pilates core work around the seated postures,  twisting, turning and winding the class down to savasana.

About six minutes into this class I realized that I had invited the wrong postures to this party.  There would be no dogs of any sort.  I had to send a text to The Warriors, all three of them, telling them not to bother.  I did want to see them, but it would have to be another time.  This party just wasn’t ready yet.

I had been so excited to show off this kick ass class I had planned.  “Oh she’s so creative” would be heard throughout the class as they danced in and out of warrior.  They would all leave eager to come back for more.

I had to kick my ego to the curb, take a deep breath and just start to move.

“Stop the words now.  Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirits fly in and out.”
~ Rumi

I let go of what I wanted to teach and tapped in to what this class needed  and I realized that not all yoga looks the same.

“Why”, became the question of the day.  Why am I teaching yoga?  Why are these people coming to yoga?   And “What”?  What do I have to offer?

I’m happy with the set up that I’ve created for myself as an instructor.  Teaching out of physio therapy clinics and renting a small space at a small church allows for a really comfortable yoga environment.  A space that’s free of intimidation, lulus and ego.  A space that’s open to anyone with an appetite for movement.

This is why I became a teacher.  To share the yoga love.  Not to show off how creative I could be or how easily I can remember a challenging sequence.  I want people to breathe and move and feel.  So if sukhasana (easy pose) is the pose of the day, so be it.  If our standing postures are rooted in mountain pose, great, we’ll be stronger for it.  If standing on our shoulders seems like a circus act, than forget it, we’ll lay with our legs up the wall and embrace the extra support.  This is all okay.  There is no judgement.  Just movement.

And maybe there aren’t words of praise floating through the class about my creative flow and challenging sequence, but there are smiles about the gentle nature of the class and about just how good it feels to “wake up” the body.   These are people who have shied away from yoga in the past because of the way it looked.  They didn’t think they could ‘do’ it.  By leaving some of the more difficult postures at home, they’ve found a comfortable place to roll out their mats and give it a try.  And now here they are, setting their intentions with the rest of ’em.   And you know what, a party will still be a party even without The Dogs and The Warriors.  And these party people attest to that each and every time they come back for more.  I may not be offering my support while upside down, but what I can offer is a safe, supportive place to practice.

I still plan out my classes, but I leave a lot more room for improv.  I keep my eyes open and listen to the people in my class.  I listen to what their bodies tell me.  And when they’re ready, they’ll let me know, and slowly I’ll start to invite the rest of the gang.

Except for eka pada sirsasana.  That poser can stay at home.

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