Recently a disc in my cervical spine shimmied out of place. The best part is, I did this in a yoga class. What is even better is that I knew, while I was in this class, that I wasn't listening to my body. Pain, numbness, and a bit of tingling with a lack of sleep has been the result. The mother of all platitudes ("Listen to your body!!!") given by yoga teachers all over the world, and then, students are given specific cues on when to breathe, when to move, and how long to hold poses.
What a valuable experience.
In the moment it was happening, I knew I wasn't listening to my own body, which speaks volumes about my desire to do "it" "right", and to be a part of the group - it is the rare student that doesn't do this in a class. It also speaks to the fact that in many yoga classes (and I've taught many like this) - students aren't even necessarily present because the yoga itself causes a level of stress for too many of the bodies who are there. If we are honest, being told when to inhale and when to exhale when it's not a natural rhythm is a sure-fire way to disconnect from the body.
Why isn't yoga encouraging people to REALLY connect with their own body-wisdom?
To me, when we do what we are "told" to do, there is an automatic disconnect. We are handing unwavering trust to a teacher who is simply NOT in our body, who has a different level of flexibility and strength, and a different lens that they view the world through. There is so much value in people coming together to practice and having a skilled teacher lead a class, but it would be TRULY revolutionary if every person was encouraged to explore their own breath and body.
Yoga would be about teaching people to TRULY listen to their own bodies.
People would learn to pick up the threads of connection between the body, the breath and the emotions. People would begin to forge a new relationship with themselves based on a deep respect for their own unique anatomy. Teachers would convey something of incredible valuable: to trust themselves.
I no longer tell people when to breathe or how long to hold a pose.
With my private coaching/yoga clients, yoga is a dialog they are having with their body, mind, and emotions that I am helping to facilitate. That's it. I notice when it appears they are involved in trying to do something "right", I notice when they stop breathing, I ask questions about their experience to help them trust themselves and uncover richer ways to engage with themselves and their lives. Yes, it's easier to tell people when to breathe and when to move, but it's not what really serves them.
It is so easy, as a student - even one who does not teach like this anymore - to check out and just do what I'm told in class. Even though I don't believe that is what yoga is really about.
Helping people become embodied means teaching them to be their own teachers.
People come to yoga for a wide variety of reasons - some of them ill defined. Ultimately, I think most people come because we as humans have a deep longing to connect with the body, the breath, and the emotions in a culture that has cast deep aspersions on everything but the mind.
Our teachers, our coaches, our gurus - whoever we look to for support - they are here to to truly see us and to help us own the power of trusting ourselves and our experiences. Nothing more, nothing less. As a teacher, I owe that to my students and clients. As a student myself, I owe that to myself and would ask my teachers to support me in honing my skills as my own best teacher.
Namasté, business yoginis.
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