I remember early days of yoga class when I felt really intimidated simply by being in the room and I would sit anxiously waiting for class to start, fidgeting mindlessly and half-considering doing a runner to the pub while there was still time to get out. (Nowadays I admit I still often feel this anxiety but I know how to manage it better. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I was in a pub…). Back then the most comforting noise was the slight creak and soft close of the studio door as my teacher came in and pulled the door to behind him ready to start class. Despite his classes being challenging in body and mind, I felt better simply with him being in the room, reassured somehow, and the door closing heralded the start of my commitment to stay in that room for 90 minutes, the end of my doubts.
Recently in my teaching I found myself talking about new year’s resolutions and about considering yoga as a place where we could rest a little, in some way. We didn’t always need to seek improvements and set goals, we could perhaps focus a little more on examining just how things were. And if we couldn’t completely let go of the need for improvement (I know I can’t: it’s habitual, drummed into me as a child and now demanded in my professional role), perhaps we could think about it more in terms of exploration. Could we look for the potential of each asana, feeling into the spaces, seeing if we could gently expand out from where we were rather than will ourselves somewhere else….
Like all yoga talks, it sounds a bit naff afterwards in the cold light of day, but at the time I hoped I’d found some teacherly eloquence and got my message across. Something clearly hit home because the students told me afterwards that they always found our practice together a non-judgmental, safe place for exploration, where they could let go of expectations and allow themselves just to see how things were. The prosaic one who hates anything ‘woo woo’ spoke with uncharacteristic lyricism about imagining light travelling through her body with her breath, subtly opening up her spine and her joints. Job done! They’re clearly more evolved than me. Or I’ve taught them so well! 🙂 Either way, it’s another moment for me of learning from my students who are much better at following my advice than I am myself! 🙂
Physician, heal thyself? Yoga teacher, teach thyself.