In Sanskrit class I’m noticing less feedback from my teacher. He used to be quick to correct mistakes or offer help. Now he gives me longer to figure it out myself, and he no longer offers any encouraging noises while I’m puzzling through the words in a sentence out loud. I’m to assume that silence is good. He’ll intervene if I make a mistake, but that’s it. It’s a tacit sign of progress and I’m having to adjust, not to wait for encouragement but to trust in my ability and keep going as far as I can. I have to resist sounding out each word with a questioning upward inflection! I can remember this part of the learning curve in reading Ancient Greek at school. My disciplinarian teacher’s tetchy mantra then was “Don’t ask me, tell me!” Now I’m an adult learner everything is disorientatingly more courteous!
So too in yoga I notice my teacher now rarely offers direct feedback on my practice. There’s often no hands-on adjustments in class, and almost never a verbal call-out to improve alignment from a distance. I guess this too is good. He can let me get on with it more by myself.
But unlike the Sanskrit learning curve, I feel much less sure how this practice works out through time. Each step on the mat feels like the first I’ve ever made, along a road I’ve never travelled. If I could perform each āsana with a physical question mark, I’m sure I would! I crave encouragement, even though I’m aware that’s probably not what I really need. Not in the long run.
So the work in yoga is in feeling and surrendering into a pose — drawing on the inner teacher, perhaps, learning to trust myself and develop self-reliance and the ability to self-regulate in all sorts of ways. A very different skill to mastering Sanskrit spelling and grammar! My Sanskrit teacher might correct me, but my yoga teacher creates a space and the rest is up to me.
The similarities and differences in learning are interesting given the juxtaposition of classes on the same day. It makes me aware of my different reactions to working my brain and working my body. Sanskrit and āsana are both a practice, both a work in progress. Might as well enjoy the journey — it’s going to be a long one.