As I enter my tenth year of teaching, I’m returning to the simplexity of the basics. From Clif Bar’s rambunctious “Broga” to the nervous reverence at Namaste’s Yoga 101, I’ve been leading several introductory classes.
It always helps to remind the students just how ridiculous yoga is. The teacher parades you through a series of bizarre positions and suggests that you relax. Huh?
As the body awkwardly contorts into a pose, the ego melts. The mind starts spinning, “Holy Cow, I’m the most imbalanced, inflexible clunkfest ever.” I’m doing it all wrong. Novice students often ask : Should I do triangle like this? Is this the right way to do Warrior II? Am I breathing wrong? (That last one is my personal favorite.)
The “right vs. wrong” tangles us in duality and morality. Why would the brilliant design of the human body evolve to move “wrong?”
Yoga poses invite us out of limited pedestrian propriety. Given that we have already surpassed the “normal” or socially “correct” I consider questions of safety and patterns instead:
When instructing I ask:
Are we safe?
Avoiding physical injury is as important as ensuring emotional safety. If we feel secure,
Can we perceive our patterns?
As we sense and understand our habits,
Can we create more efficient patterns?
If the repatterning felt pleasurable and relevant,
Will the new pattern be repeated?
Instead of a stark dogma of achievement, we are given a path. Essentially, I hope that students return to yoga and it will benefit them.
Unfortunately, yogic alignment may appear foreign and doctrinaire to novices. After exploring finer alignment details even seasoned practitioners have commented that they have been doing a pose “all wrong” for years. We can uncover something new without deeming ourselves a failure. A set of rigid rules snarls our actions.
A focus on safely allows for individual gradation and suspends responsibility between teacher and student. If we are secure enough to place our left foot in front of the right than we take the next step. If we keep moving forward, yoga will open and organize us in strange and delightful ways.