In all the years I have been practicing yoga, I have encountered numerous teachers who understand the theories of asana. They have no problem explaining the most technical points of a pose. A few gifted teachers take it a step further. They understand the most technical points of the pose, but they understand that without the breath, an open curious mind, and a willingness to focus intently without judgement, the practice is nothing more than exercise. They give you the time and space to practice. They do not tell you how to feel. They don’t tell you how to feel because that is your experience. They simply teach the pose, and give you space to breath and have an experience. Then you choose to do a pose like exercise, or you choose to find the beauty and poetry of the pose, and move from the outer to the inner, it is ultimately your decision. Eventually you must climb above the physical struggle and face the ego and its struggle to accept at first the asana, and eventually the life, your life. Your limits, your weaknesses, your strengths and gifts, the dark and the light. There is a delicate balance between, your mat, your world, and yourself. If your practice does not serve you, and enhance your life, then you should make changes, it is pretty simple. Yoga can heal you, can harm you, can change you for better or worse, but it can only do these things with your approval.
When I first started yoga, 25 years back, I went to two classes that were way too advanced. Day one and two, I experienced the horror of too many down dogs, forward folds, all the hamstring stuff for a beginner. Then I went to level 1 classes for maybe 2-3 weeks. I should have stayed with level 1 or 1/2 for a longer period, but I then went back to 2/3 classes. I did this for the first 3 years. It is a common way to begin. I pushed props away the first 3 years also. Figured they were holding me back. Then one day I was in a class with a teacher that would become one of my all time favorites. It was a level 2 class I believe. At that point I had a decent physical practice. The class was doing a relatively basic pose, triangle, Utthita Trikonasana. I had my figure tips resting on the floor. She came up and said something that has turned out to be simple and profound. She said, “you could make this really good pose, beautiful, if you just picked the floor up 4 inches underneath your hand, that would allow you to move your spine a bit further forward and create more space, it would be beautiful”, she then placed a block she had under my hand, and asked me to move the side of my ribs not facing the ceiling forward towards my front foot. She simply extended my spine. I do it everyday to my own students. It is nothing. The gift was the manner in which she did it. She could have said, “lets make this pose better, or lets fix this pose”, etc. Instead she acknowledged that the pose was not negative, it was fine and lets make it beautiful. As in beautiful inside and out, beautiful for the energy of the pose, beautiful for the affect on the mind, the space internally and externally. All of it. The beauty of not coming from a negative place, but instead from a positive one. It changed everything. I embraced props, moved forward, and a few years later took a training and eventually began to teach. At first beginners don’t even know what to do with props. then they often push them away, then, hopefully they embrace them and find the physical freedom of the pose and the simplicity of beauty.
In order to let a student find inner wisdom, the teacher must be confident enough to give the student the freedom to seek. A rigid, authoritarian approach will simply decrease the students ability to find that which truly resonates within, and diminish the students experience. Only when a teacher is no longer driven to be perfect, to be all knowing, all powerful, to be the master, will the student grow to full potential. The hard lessons must be softened with kindness. And the truth, when the student is ready to receive and the teacher is ready to relinquish, will emerge.
Go into the room. Get on the mat. Be still, be quiet. Don’t be a slave to your practice or your habits. Stumble, as you certainly will, regain your footing with grace and acceptance, be quiet. Listen to what whispers to you, be quiet. Only when you are silent often enough, long enough, will you receive the gifts you are so desperate for. Let each breath remove you from your ego. Let each breath take you away from your noise. Breathe, be silent, be patient, and finally, be the one who fully knows what it is like to be you.