Daily Archives: October 4, 2007

Putting It Into Practice

I taught a yoga class yesterday morning – the first I’ve taught since my YNG weekend.

For the most part, my yoga classes haven’t changed much in a few years. I have a nice flow from standing to seated to lying postures, I try to get to all the major muscle groups, we do a little balancing, and then I lay them all down and try to teach them how to turn their minds off. Once, in a while, I’ll toss in a different balancing pose or we’ll do a different seated posture but, for the most part, my class is predictable.

Every so often, I’ll ask whether the participants want me to change things up. Do they want to run a warrior series (I tend not to do them because I generally come to yoga classes fresh out of step class, and my poor little legs can’t hold me up in warrior for a respectable number of breaths)? Would they like to do inversions? How about more sun salutations? I like giving the participants control over what we do in class, and sometimes, they’ll take me up on it.

For the most part, though, the answer is always an enthusiastic and resounding “NO!” They like the predictability; they like knowing that we always do the same standing poses because they are working on really getting to know that pose and how to get into (and out of) it in ways that suit – and challenge – their bodies. They like the relaxation sequence I lead them through because, they tell me, it takes a while to really learn how to turn off one’s brain. Knowing that they’re going to get the same sequence every class helps them to focus: my voice becomes a hum in the background of their own breathing and they’re learning how to take the technique I use and bring it home with them – one woman told me last week that, if she tries, she can lie on the floor and imagine that I’m there, leading her through the relaxation.

I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, I really do appreciate what my participants are telling me. There’s nothing wrong with doing the same things over and over again, either spiritually or physically (as long as those things are done safely, of course). Most human beings are drawn to patterns and rituals and routines, and learning to be comfortable and effective within those structures has a great deal of value.

On the other hand, I’m always aware of the possibility of “stagnation.” For as much as we humans love our patterns and routines and rituals, we’re not always able to see clearly when those structures no longer serve us. Sometimes, we do things only because we’ve always done them, without realizing that we’re no longer growing or changing or thinking.

As I said, I’m of two minds. I am happy and settled and content in my here and now, but there are a lot of people in my life who would encourage me to step out of that comfort and contentment to push for the “next” thing. While I understand, both intellectually and spiritually, what they’re encouraging me to do, I think that many of them fail to see that I’m not actually standing still. The things that I’m comfortable and content within require a lot of my time and energy and work and love to maintain – they are not static structures; neither am I doing myself harm by staying with them.

…but I digress…

I went into yesterday’s yoga class with a plan. I was going to run the class almost exactly the same way I usually do, but I would make subtle changes here and there. I changed the way I explain a pose. I asked the participants to modify one part of our sun salutation. I wanted to shift their expectations of my class, but I didn’t want to freak anyone out.

I did tell them, though, about halfway through the class, that I was going to drastically change the way I end this session: it’s an 8-9 a.m. class, and I wanted them to leave more energized than my usual relaxation allows. Most of us go right from yoga to a step class, which is completely ass-backwards, so I decided to end the class with some energizing (and heat-creating) breathing exercises that I learned from David last weekend at YNG. I warned my people that they might feel silly doing these exercises, but to just play along with me and to see what happened.

They were AMAZED! They left the class feeling light and quick and ready for the rest of their day – and I managed to get through step class with an enthusiasm and energy that I’ve not had since I picked up this early morning, pre-step yoga class about a month ago.

Learning new things is good!

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