After two back-to-back classes of not-good instruction, today’s core session got back on track; the teacher this afternoon was incredible.
The focus of this session was anatomy. I’ve never had an anatomy class before, and while I find the body extremely interesting, I know I don’t possess intellectual knowledge of it. Through my yoga journey I’m learning that I don’t have great experiential (or “practical”) knowledge of the body (my body), either. So while I wasn’t exactly “nervous” for today’s session, I was “curious” as to how it was all going to shake out.
Our instructor began the class by inviting all of us to sit in a circle, and asked us to participate in quick introductions. I appreciate him asking/requesting (instead of stating/
“demanding”), and I liked that he even wanted to do introductions at all. Through these two simple gestures, I felt genuine care coming from him.
He then provided an overview of how we would proceed through our four anatomy sessions, and then began instruction on today’s topic – the spine. The spine is considered by most (all?) yogis to be the “heart” of yoga, so it makes sense that we would begin here. We explored the spine a little bit by looking at a model skeleton while the teacher “lectured” (discussed), but we also spent a good amount of class time experiencing the spine – through a study of our own individual movement, but also through partner work. We took turns touching each other in relatively intimate ways: feeling each vertebrae of the spine move as we bent forward and then stood upright again, and feeling the ribs expand and contract through breathing… This level of physical interaction required a lot of comfort and trust; and yet for me, it felt very natural and safe.
I learned a lot in today’s session (too much to detail out here), but I think perhaps one of my most significant “ah-ha!” moments was when the teacher explained that there are no straight lines in the body. None. We are all 100% curves. The spine is not a stick, but instead a composition of 3-4 curves (depending on how you define where the spine ends). So the direction to “sit/stand up straight” or to “flatten your back into the floor” is literally impossible – and this explained a LOT to me about how in past classes I felt like I could never successfully do those things (i.e., because I literally couldn’t!).
In addition to sharing lots of technical/physiological knowledge, the teacher shared lots of experiential/psychological knowledge, too. He gently encouraged us to “let go” of taking copious notes, and to instead focus on experiencing today’s class. For an academically-inclined over-thinker like me, this was difficult instruction to take; but he suggested that knowledge is most accessible (and therefore most apt to be applied) when it is “absorbed, not accumulated”.
The instructor closed today’s class with a discussion of breathing, and told us that when we breathe 100% freely, every single part of our body moves – even our skull. Though the movement may be tiny, it’s present. So, our “goal” in asana practice is to work towards allowing our body to breathe in all directions, as fully as possible. Then, in the very next second, he quickly added, “But propose it, don’t impose it.” I grinned. Clearly he knows me (my personality type) too well.
Indeed, much (most?) of this yoga journey is about the emotional as it is the intellectual; the psychological as much as the physical. Slowly, slowly, I’m beginning to shift from “working” my body and mind to “inviting” them to grow, change, evolve.