Lessons Yoga Blog 10.11.08
Look at any yoga book and all of the postures will look different. The form, structure and alignment can change with each tradition, but one thing remains the same; if you look at the faces of the practitioners, most probably you will see the face of Samadhi, bliss. This is what we look for in yoga. It is important to be safe, whatever you do with your body, however you move it and whatever you put into it.
It is important to root yourself in the discipline of your choice. Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Krama, Kundalini and the list goes on. But once you have committed yourself to a practice, it's important to venture out on your own (or in the class environment) to make the practice your own and find the posture inside of your heart and mind.
Might sound a little out there. Let's look at it this way, if you listen to the safe and proper alignment and cues of a good teacher in order to feel a posture in a deeper way or rediscover something new about the posture, that is one step. Another step is that you must use what you have learned in your previous practices in union with how you feel in that particular moment and what you have set out as your intention for your practice. Then make the pose happen. It's like painting a picture and deciding what colors to use that day.
Your postures and practice will look and feel different every day.
I will rarely correct a student that is obviously from another tradition and decides to do his/her pose in a way that is different from what I am cuing. I will, however, correct a student if she/he is clearly not body aware in a pose and could harm themselves by doing the pose. There is a difference.
I have a peeve. I'm not a huge fan of students who jump back to a plank (Ardha Chattarunga) and not Chattarunga. To me, and it's just how I learned, it's unstable for the shoulder's and can be too jarring on the rotator cuff. People still do it even though I'm a broken record about it. It started somewhere and I'm not sure where but people continue to do it in my class. Maybe it's because I've been verbally abused in some Bikram and Ashtanga classes (I still enjoy and practice these traditions, just not with those teachers anymore) that I just can't stomach the idea of drilling in the 'right' way of doing something if it takes you out of the bliss or intention of your practice.
I certainly don't want other students looking around and wondering about the safety of the students around them in my class. Believe me folks; I've got them covered.
Ultimately, the point of yoga is to move your way into stillness and we do that with breath, body and mind work.
The workout part is great. If that's all you want, that's all you'll get. But if you are in it to go deeper, you will get there with and without the teacher in the room.
Yoga, again, like a broken record, I am, and comma happy, is your own journey and is a practice mostly off the mat. It's a lifestyle choice. That choice can simply be to come and challenge yourself a few hours a week and that is a good choice.
But it really doesn't end when we walk out of the studio. The real practice is the real world. The mat is simply the place to try things out. Like therapy, but without all the talking and crying and delving into your childhood. Hmmm.
It's a place to explore and play. Try things out there and then test it in your day to day. Get rid of anything that isn't working for you and try again. Yoga is the teacher that keeps on teachin'.
But if a teacher suggests something that doesn't resonate for you, don't just do it to do it, question it. Ask why and then decide for yourself if it works for you.
I've had people raise their hands or legs in class to ask a question and quietly pull me aside. That's what I'm there for for cryin' out loud. I'm there for you, using my experience, as I know it on and off the mat and seeing how it can apply to you in your practice. I'm also a personal trainer so if you wanna keep the questions strictly physical, I can answer those for you. I can even tell you how many calories you will probably burn. I can teach you how to stand on your hands though even I need the assistance of a partner or wall to keep me toes pointing upward.
Discard or apply what you need and when you need it.
Your personal practice doesn't necessarily mean you see me one day a week then the rest of the days you are on your own. It's taking what I've guided you through on that day, what you've learned from yourself by opening yourself up then taking it out there.
Some days it works. Some days, not so much.
Some days there is traffic on the 405 at 11AM, other times there ain't.
It's the ebb and flow of life and we need both to grow.
Let yourself experience all of it. When it works and when it doesn't.
Your personal practice doesn't always mean sun salutes. It can simply mean putting your discoveries into practice; facing life with the clarity you find in postures, breathing and meditation and the collective class experiences.
The obstacles that come up for you on the mat will most likely be the same obstacles you face in your daily life. Find the parallels.
I can't tell you how many times I find myself judging my own practice. If only I approached myself with the same non-judgment, gentleness and allowances I do with others. I don't look side to side and wish I was my neighbor or thank goodness I'm not like my other neighbor, no. I look at myself and think, why can't I do this today or any day. And that's how I live my life. That's my test and it's a consistent one at that.
So it is my practice, on the mat, to be gentle with what comes up for me, not to knock it down.
The more I can do that, the more I can do it in life. The great thing about yoga is the awareness. I can be aware of judgment before it takes its course within. As soon as I recognize I am being hard on myself, I can take a step back and correct it, like a pose so that I can replace it with feeling of goodness and non-judgment. It's that simple and that difficult, but a lot better than always judging oneself!
So, there you go. Heart on my sleeve, supporting all traditions of yoga, safety and most of all, Samadhi!
Be good to yourself, drink lots of water (especially in Santa Ana windy season) and call your mother.