Here is a story for you. A person goes to see their doctor as they have a bad cold. The doctor prescribes a skin ointment to help them and they leave not sure how this will help the cold, but do as told. Another person comes in with a sprained wrist and the same doctor prescribes a skin ointment. Once more the patient leaves and does what they are told. The doctor must know what they are doing. A third patient comes in and is expecting a baby and the doctor prescribes a skin ointment.
Easy to see that this story is an exaggeration but we all go thru examples of this each day; Yes even me. Obviously we can see from this story that something is wrong with the doctor; no dismissing that. What if I told you that the patients were seeing a child’s doctor they grew up with and just continued to go to them right or wrong? We see quite clearly that going to someone that what was right in the past doesn’t mean it right today.
Still many of us return to things we did when we were younger and then wonder why the result is different. There may even be cases where we saw great results so it must have worked. Right? However just like the patient with the cold, they could apply the skin ointment but the cold simply ran its course and went away; had nothing to do with the skin ointment.
To all those ready to respond to me and make their arguments – I’m not saying don’t trust experts. There is a time to consider what the doctor, lawyer, home-repair person etc… is saying. You hired them for their expertise as they were educated in that area, they may have a license or years of experience in the area. Does that mean you throw-out your own judgement? Times have changed in the past 100 years alone. Gone are the days where you farmed, grew your food, built your home and went to the doctor that has seen you since birth. We move away from childhood homes and specialize in work areas. So we are left being the only ones that really know ourselves the longest. Even with medical databases I find that your history will be overlooked due to human error.
What to do then? I suggest to ask more “Why’s” Why am I doing this? Kids are great at asking why? Can drive you crazy because you respond and here comes a why again. You start to laugh because the kid has a point. By asking you can pause and see if the answer or response is right for you. I’ve had ladies in labor tell me that their doctor wanted to perform a C-Section. They learned to ask more “Why’s” to find out it was a scheduling issue –not that that the procedure was a medical emergency.
To build more awareness meditation helps. I often say that prayer is describing your wish list and meditation is listening (to what you need). I see so many go to yoga with expectations they have; things they have seen, want to be and end up hurting themselves. They may be doing the same yoga that they did in earlier years and wonder why it isn’t working for them now. The blame is placed and instead of listening to what is real, they would rather hear what they wanted. Smash Mouth has a song called “All-Star” that has a line “Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb”. We may grow up, learn a lot but still be so clueless about ourselves.
I like guiding yoga students with observations while they are sustaining postures. Telling them “there is nothing wrong with this place; nothing wrong with who you are right now.” The negative responses start to go drift away, take us on a meditative journey. Often the students laugh because we all do it. We are upside down in downdog and start thinking about the posture; “I wish my heals were to the floor like the person next to me.” Constantly letting the monkey mind jump around with our judgment and thoughts that often many rush out of yoga class, turn the phones on and start driving down the street screaming at traffic. Therefore the posture didn’t help beyond the ego of that moment. “Look I put my foot behind my head!“ Great but a moment later you are still a mean person. So Yoga must be more than what can be seen physically.
I love teaching prenatal and beginners in yoga. Often the student hasn’t developed bad habits in yoga and their changing bodies are forcing them to consider something new or different. Sometimes I have more experienced yogi’s consider something new. I had one who came to my Flow 1 the other day. We moved into Bridge Pose and she quickly decided to do Wheel. I have spent a lot of time training to understand the various physical and non-physical reasons that one posture is different than the other. I don’t expect the student to know this but they can feel it. I asked her to consider joining us in the next set of Bridge; because I ask them to repeat it a few times. She did and was shocked to see that what may appear to the eye as easy, was actually quite different and for her challenging. For her it was more of what she needed as she was flexible in her hips and shoulders but needed more strength back building.
I’m also so glad that I teach smaller groups now. I haven’t taught large groups for a while now and if you have ever taught one on one you know it is different. As a teacher your communication changes as I believe it should; about offering that person what they need. Instead I feel that yoga teachers, especially the well-known stars of yoga, become circus performers. There to entertain, demonstrate their yoga practice and ramble on about sequences or postures that they too were told to do without any other possibilities or considerations. They video and post themselves doing very advanced postures. What can’t be seen though is the deeper element of the mind. Examining the mind and choices, we can use the tool of movement to examine “Why” more. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love arm-balances. Yet there is a difference when I go into a pose to show off to others or do it with a calm moving breath and end up feeling the effects that balance has on the mental body. When we choose the latter, a place that allows us to sustain, be there, without pain or injury, it takes us to a place that often can’t be easily described but can be felt. Yes even in the well- known advanced positions. My focus as a guide to yoga is to help each person examine their choices; to do more or less. They practice it on a yoga mat and then it goes out into the world from there.
Last night in my prenatal class I was focusing on empowering the ladies with the right of asking “why”. I feel this way they can do this for the rest of their life; not just for labor. They of course shake their heads and agree that it makes sense. Then I had them put their blankets down and said “we will now move into headstand.” They stopped and looked at me like I was crazy. “Oh you mean you are questioning why you are about to do this?” Great! It was a joke of course but one that allowed them to question. That is human nature and history has shown us why conformity fails. We are each unique and different. Let’s celebrate it instead of punishing ourselves.
There are times I wish more of us could be like an expecting Mom’s body. The ladies bodies are already responding to nature; dropping, opening and letting go. They often don’t have a choice in the matter and I’m there trying to get them to stop fighting with the mind. Often too their babies kick and respond and they are forced to think beyond themselves. I only wish everyone walked around with that same focus and intention. If you can’t think about doing what is best for you, think of your body as a temple, then do it for another person. You find that you start making your choices from this place; from eating, work, sleep and exercise. This place is real and true.
Let your Yoga be what fits you right now, this moment. There is nothing wrong with it.