Shift it

I’ve had some amazing moments with my students this week. A bit of Sanskrit punning after class from one, some good questions from another who is usually very self-contained (with a good line in sceptical faces!), and the one is who usually very physically cautious and always takes the lighter options was asking about how to build up to Chaturanga Dandasana rather than always lowering through knees, chest, chin which is the modification I offer through a vinyasa. And in the private I taught, the student with some long-term musculoskeletal issues was clearly developing more confidence in her physical strength and more awareness of her body. We had some really good moments exploring the sensations she was experiencing in particular asanas and finding parallels and differences between the ones she finds easier and those currently more challenging. She’s now got her own mat and a block and seems to be happily doing a little independent practice in between our meetings. 

I know I’m just supposed to offer my teaching and let the outcomes take care of themselves, but as a newbie I find this kind of feedback very inspiring. To see my students taking in what I’m trying to teach, making the practice their own, and getting curious about what their bodies are doing is so wonderful. It feels like some good relationships are developing — my relationship with them, but — much more than — that their relationship with themselves. After all they’re the ones doing the work.

Even more surprising than these little moments of formal teaching was Hubby coming to me and asking for some help today: would I watch him doing his practice and his physio exercises and tell him what I saw. He clearly needed some reassurance and encouragement that he was executing poses and movements appropriately to support the things he’s working with. My understanding of anatomy is very basic, but I could see some things going on that we then explored together. And most of my suggestions went down well and he said he felt more comfortable (even if it was sometimes more difficult!). This was pretty amazing — revolutionary almost! — since when I graduated last year he told me tersely not to come anywhere near him ever, since I didn’t yet know anything, and the style of yoga I practise (Vinyasa) is inherently “an injury waiting to happen”!! I know that was just his fear speaking, but even so…. A bit difficult to take.

So today was a really big step forward for him and I’m glad I could offer him something. The most amusing thing was that we ended up talking about backbends which he’s too scared to practise and I was showing him a kind of pre-backbend place of simply broadening through the chest and opening the front of the shoulders and finding length in the spine. And I realised half way through setting him up that I’m pretty sure this is exactly what my own teacher was trying to show him a year or more ago…. And he didn’t want to hear it then. He was too scared, lacking trust in himself and others, too wounded. Now he’d arrived here and was ready.

On the one hand this is all super-small stuff. It probably sounds trivial. But this is how yoga is, I think: one small detail makes all the difference. One moment of increased awareness, one small shift in alignment, one word of encouragement… A shift in perspective that changes everything. It’s pretty amazing to help others find that shift.

2 thoughts on “Shift it

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  1. Pretty amazing, to be sure! I love to read about your observations. I think that a good teacher must be very observant. I know that this is one of my weaknesses. I love to create sequences, to lead them, but I need to tune in more to how each student is experiencing the sequences. It’s a continuing challenge for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks K8, glad you found in interesting. Observation is of course easier when there are fewer bodies in front of you. I wonder how observant I’ll be in a larger class. And when it’s a body you already love and know well, you know half the story already — before you’ve put your ‘reading glasses’ on, as it were


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