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.
I’m teaching a new yoga class on Mondays and Wednesdays at YogaWorks in Westwood. Come check it out!
- Level: 2/3
- Time: 6:00pm to 7:10pm
- Location: 1256 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024