Today I had a tech session focused on a style of yoga that one of the studio instructors created/invented. It’s called “Mi-an Yoga”, and the instructor/creator/inventor explained that this style of yoga is all about energy work: specifically, how to access energy in the body, and open up the body to allow more energy to flow freely. This yoga method draws heavily on Iyengar, Hatha, and Ashtanga yoga styles; beyond that, it seems that every class is unique, based on who the students are, what their needs are at a macro-level, what their bodies need on that specific day, and what they have interest in learning about/doing at that moment in time. The instructor explained that her desire for all of her students is largely the same: for each of them to learn and come to know more about their bodies by the end of class than what they knew at the beginning of the session.
With that, the instructor then asked us, “So what poses do you want to focus on today? Let’s do a session.” One of us said, “triangle”, and so we spent the class preparing our bodies for triangle pose.
The instructor prefaced our class by stating that yoga should not hurt; but that being said, yoga should push us beyond our comfort level. It’s a razor-thin line from “pushing” to pain; and only each individual can assess when s/he has crossed over from safe discomfort to unsafe pain. With that, we began testing where that line really is.
We did a bunch of core work (probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes of various crunches and lifts and holds), and then focused on accessing our internal muscles. Not our obvious internal muscles like our abs and our glutes and our quads, but our subtle internal muscles – our sphincter and our kegel muscles. This instructor is very much about using the far-interior muscles to do as much work as the more obvious outer muscles, and when I remember to apply this to my yoga practice, it really does make a notable difference. That being said, it is difficult for me to do (in part because it’s difficult for me to really “access” those muscles, as I just haven’t had a lot of practice with them; and in part because I habitually rely on my larger/more obvious muscles); but when I do it, it really does help.
About 50 minutes into the session, we had exhausted our abs, our inner thighs, and our inner-inner muscles – so we were ready to get into triangle pose. The instructor led us through the set-up and execution of the pose, and then we practiced on our own for a few minutes. She then asked if she could use a few of us for demonstration purposes – and yup, she selected me.
Now, being “selected” is not really an honor; usually this instructor uses people as an example of what not to do. But, after the chosen individual demonstrates what not to do, this teacher then adjusts and corrects the person, and uses them to show the entire class what to do. I deeply value the detailed, hands-on correction – learning kinesthetically with my own physical body is the absolute best way to learn a pose correctly; for me this is WAY more helpful than just watching or imitating someone else – so I don’t mind being “selected”. I know I’m not perfect; that’s why I’m in a training program. To learn. So whatev – choose me, use me, correct me…teach me. And she definitely did all of that.
I step into “my version” of triangle pose. Folks, take it in. I hold the pose for a few seconds, and then the teacher asks, “Do you mind if I move you?” Nope, that’s cool – go to town. She then tells me, “Okay, your only job right now is to breathe. Can you do that? Just breathe.” Oh, sure, easy! Breathe – no sweat. I totally got this. Breathe. Cool.
She then begins a series of three adjustments: move my hip back, shift my ribs back, nudge my shoulder back. She moves incrementally, each adjustment intentional, but less than an inch at a time. On round two of the adjustment process, she pushes on my hip, and says, “Stef, you have to breathe, or else I can’t move you. You just locked me out. Did you feel that?” Here I thought I *was* breathing (I was trying really hard to breathe!), but she was completely right; I had stopped letting the breath flow – and in so doing, I totally stopped being receptive. I nodded, and inhaled deeply. With the air flow restarted, she continued the adjustment; and about 30 seconds later, I was in a crazy-full expression of triangle, unlike any I have EVER achieved before. It was wild, and crazy, crazy cool.
While imitating Yoga Journal (or Gumby) was quite fun, and while learning “proper” triangle was very valuable, the most important teaching I took away today was the lesson about receptivity. If I’m rigid, and unwilling (or unable) to bend, no one can help me. Today it was a very physical, tangible example: My body was locked, so the teacher couldn’t help me improve my pose. But the applications of this are far broader than just the yoga mat. If I’m emotionally rigid, or intellectually inflexible, stuck in my habitual ways of thinking and viewing myself/others/the world around me, no one can do much with me, or for me. Even when I *think* I’m being as open as all get-out, sometimes that just isn’t the case; and it may take someone poking on me to bring that to my attention.
My instructor achieved her goal with me today, whether she realizes it or not: I absolutely did learn more about my body by the end of this session. Even more important, I learned about my heart/mind/soul as well.
P.S. An element of this yoga session carried over to my meditation practice; you can check it out here. (It’s the final post on the page.)