I started my class this week by asking if anyone could remember what we’d been chanting the week before, a simple sutra, familiar enough to me now that it readily springs to mind or lips in particular situations. It can be something of an anchor when I feel drowning in a sea of new (half) knowledge. But for them, as yet, it’s just alien sounds. In one ear, out the other. We had eyes closed when I asked the question, but I could feel the air change — anxiety, tension, shame, guilt… panicky emotions, breathing stopped. I held this for only a moment, before I released the sutra into the air, and invited them to join in with me if they wanted to. An OM together and we started asana practice, with me finding some combo of cuing and moving with them, playing in my own teaching practice with how to lead them, without pulling them out of their place and into mine.
I’ve been trying to teach about awareness, precision, and attention, so memory skills and learning to listen through one’s emotions was one way of approaching this. I find it hard to get my message across, but I start to trust that it strikes home more than I think. Not infrequently someone will chitchat before or after class and mention some thought they had during the week, arising from something I said class. Wow! I couldn’t ask for more than that. Yoga off the mat, that’s where it’s at!
And yesterday I was at a workshop given by one of my teacher’s teachers. I’m still processing (information and sensory overload!), so I have no words in general. But specifically I was struck by a parallel circumstance. We were doing partner work on a surya namaskar variation and one of the regular regulars claimed he couldn’t remember it, and despite all his years of experience there was the same panic, the fear of being shown up, being revealed as not good enough. “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed” said no yoga teacher ever (I hope!), but inside I squirmed, feeling as though we were letting my teacher down.
If I dial down my own anxious thoughts I’ve got these SN variations in my body now; there are other things I’m trying to remember during my practice. We were encouraged to keep awareness of breath, movement, drishti, mula bandha, all the while with an intention of love and compassion. Crikey! That’s quite a broad field of awareness and my practice could be classed as an epic fail — by me at least! But it’s just a practice, right….? 🙂
With so much to remember, I find mantra often really helps during asana practice. If I have words that resonate and flow through me, I don’t need to remember anything actively; all aspects of the practice just flow from that. But that’s a work in progress, sometimes I feel it, sometimes not. It made me think of the Roman generals who had a slave standing behind them during their triumphal procession whispering repeatedly: “remember you are not a god”. I think I need the opposite, as I try to cultivate my inner light. My teacher gave an assist in Vira1, a pose in which I rarely feel any ease. Behind me, he said something I didn’t catch and I irritably turned my head to hear: “find the place of love and compassion”.
Oh, yes, that. 🙂
Thank you, remover of darkness. I might find it one day.