The privileged view

I remember the first time I encountered the idea of one’s physical posture reflecting one’s mental state, current or past (i.e. whether a reflection of stuff of the moment or a deeper expression of past experiences of whatever sort). It really made me angry. And afraid. I felt as though I was laid bare under the gaze of an experienced teacher, that all my past (and present) shit would be obvious. And I felt as though I was being judged — and inevitably found lacking. Any yoga teacher would see in an instant that I wasn’t cut out for a yoga practice. I was too broken, dull and bleak to radiate that inner light that was at the heart of other people’s yoga….

Hm. Not a great place to be, I agree.

I don’t see it that way now! Big sigh of relief… A sign of progress 🙂

As a yoga teacher myself now I know how privileged I am to watch my students and see how they hold and move their bodies. Sometimes I know them as individuals before they come to me for yoga teaching, other times I know them only through yoga. Either way it’s often surprising to match up what I see on and off the yoga mat. I really hope I don’t judge, I often don’t even try to understand, simply observe and see what my observations suggest about how I might support their practice, without straying into ‘fixing’. I hold these ideas or these ideals at least, though often I’m not sure how to behave, how best to respond to what’s in front of me.

These thoughts came to me recently as I led someone through a practice whom I already knew ‘off the mat’. In everyday life he appeared as a very confident, happy-go-lucky young man, vital and full of life and energy. He quite intimidated me, to be honest, with his vivacity and go-getting attitude! I supposed I assumed his yoga practice would look correspondingly strong, confident, and open, radiating the energy I saw in his everyday life. Instead I saw quite a closed physical attitude, a rounding inward, something tentative in his movement, like every asana was a question rather than a statement.

I’ve never experienced such a mismatch between my perception of someone on the mat and off the mat. I’ve slightly revised how I see this person now. And I’m reminding myself to keep practising the attitude of not making assumptions and trying to limit myself to observation without so much expectation or interpretation.

Teaching yoga is endlessly humbling. I have so much to learn.


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