Breaking the virtuous circle

virtuous circle.gifI realise there’s something of a virtuous circle going in my yoga: I am used to my regular teacher’s take on things so this always seems self evidently ‘the truth’ because it’s what I’m familiar with… because it’s what he taught me… It’s very comforting because it’s self-reinforcing. Does that make it a vicious circle in disguise? Perhaps it’s not the best thing after all? So I’ve been trying out a few different classes and teachers recently in a small step towards broadening my experience of how yoga is taught and indeed what yoga might be!

So… other teachers. Hmm! In the spirit of yogic non-judgment and respect it would be wrong to reject their teachings outright but this has been a really interesting ground for observation of my tendencies and my reactions to the unfamiliar. How much am I open to new experiences? How much do I want those new experiences to reinforce what I think I already know and what I expect? When I feel myself turning away from a teaching, is that a good, wise decision or an ignorant, impulsive or scared one?

At worst, I’ve seen what I think are some pretty dodgy-looking adjustments being given to students around me. I would never allow anyone to move me like that. I could be wrong (I’ve never been taught anything about adjusting people) but I don’t think so. Plus the rhetoric from this teacher was very much the ‘no pain, no gain’ school of thought. Nope, I’m not going back there again. Not enough good to outweigh my concerns. I think this counts as a good, wise decision for me at least — though I should say everyone else seemed perfectly happy with the class. One vs many — could I possibly be wrong?!?

Another class I tried was given by a teacher who was clearly very experienced. They offered some really great cuing that gave me a different experience of some familiar poses (esp good old Tadāsana and even Śavāsana!). Plus they were the only teacher I’ve encountered who pronounces āsana with the right vowel quantities! Tick! 🙂 A slight but powerful adjustment in Vīra 1 made me want to run for the mirror instantly after class to see what’s going on with my hip alignment. And yet… once again I found myself shying away from the overall ethos of the class. Too much aerobics-style reps of movements that were supposed to ‘work the core hard’ but for me were just a shoulder or hamstring injury in the making. Personally I reckon good abs are a nice by-product of an honest and balanced āsana practice, not something that I would ever make my focus: if I wanted to work my core hard I’d go to the gym (and take my body-image ego along with me!).

123-300x106.jpgThen the thing that really irked me: labeling variations/modifications as levels 1, 2, 3 of a pose, which felt like a value judgement and was likely to trigger my high-achiever tendencies. I was at level 1 (or often level minus 1) for the whole class. This was a bit confronting to the ego to say the least. It might be good for me overall, but it didn’t feel very supportive or positive — nothing about santosha here, just encouragement to pull deeper into a pose.

So I might not go back to that class again. Or if I do, I know it’ll be for the interesting observation of my reactions and for the gems of deep experience sprinkled through a class that was otherwise not quite my cup of tea.

explorer.jpgAnd I’m still going to keep exploring further afield when I can. Seeing different styles is really interesting. I think it’s good for me overall — provided I continue to look after myself well during class and not get caught up in anything I don’t feel comfortable with. Safety first. Exploration second. Ego…third!?

Then funnily enough back in my usual class tonight there was a theme of being open to change and doing things differently. Not closing down in our attitudes and relying on comfortable habit. And we played this out in our āsana where the emphasis was all about keeping openness. So maybe the circle I’ve taken out and about and then back home is a virtuous one after all.


image sources:

virtuous circle; 1 2 3; explorer;

4 thoughts on “Breaking the virtuous circle

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  1. Good experiment. Personally I shy away from the smorgasbord approach to yoga classes. Too many viewpoints, maybe. I find myself scouting out intensives that interest me, and practising on my my own to integrate. I would like to find an ashtanga yoga sangha… a dream I’m hoping to manifest… if/when it comes to fruition I’ll blog about it!
    : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I can see that re smorgasbord yoga. But I’m at a different place on the journey compared to you. I just wondered how blinkered I might be. I think my teacher is amazing and could happily attend only his classes, but maybe that’s not wholly good!


    1. thanks for the comment. Yes, I got a bit judgemental and frustrated with the whole calorie burning rhetoric. But you’re right, it works as motivation for some people and there’s nothing wrong with that.


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