A few weeks ago I explained the mentoring component of my yoga teacher training program: I am to have 3 mentor-teacher group meetings, observe an experienced teacher twice, and take two of that teacher’s “general population” beginner-level yoga class (so that I can also experience the teacher from a student point-of-view). This morning I took my first mentor-related class – and it was fantastic!
Because I was fully participating in the class as a student, I didn’t take any notes during the session. So my “report” about this class will likely be skimpy on details – but hopefully still full of the overall sentiments I had during the experience. With that, here are the various things that came to pass for me during the 75-minute session:
- We did some crazy poses during this session! At one point during the class, I honestly said to my self, “Really, is this teacher just making stuff up now?” We did poses I have never done before, including Eka Pada Koundiyanasana, Ardha Bhekasana, and a quasi forward-folded Ruchikasana. Crazy!
- I got to go from wheel pose (which I knew how to do, and can do quite well), to standing – and then from standing back down to wheel. I had never done this before, ever – and it was super-cool! The teacher supported me through this one; I don’t think I can do this one on my own yet. But at least now I know what it feels like to do it – and with some practice, and a little more strength and balance, I am semi-confident I might be able to do this on my own before too long. Wow!
- I received some really great instruction on crow pose. I always knew I wasn’t doing it quite right, but I didn’t know exactly what part I wasn’t doing quite right. Turns out I wasn’t lifting my hips high enough, and I wasn’t looking out far enough (i.e., my drishti was straight down, when it should have been a good 6-12” out in front of me). These two incorrect elements put too much weight into my arms, which is why I could never stay up in the pose for more than a second (literally). I still have a lot of practice to do for this pose, but now I know how it can (and is “supposed”) to feel – which is over half the struggle.
- And actually, I received some really great instruction on many poses. This teacher really knows proper alignment, and she is able to identify when a person is not in alignment; and she is then able to help a person who is out of alignment get into a better (read: safer) alignment. Because I am very flexible, I need a teacher who knows what he/she is doing. Yes, I can contort my body into many crazy postures; but I can also get hurt in that process. I want (and really, I need) a teacher who knows when a pose isn’t safe, and who won’t push me into an unsafe space. [I’ve had some teachers in the past see me bend far and go deep, and think “Fun! I get to try cool stuff with this person!”. Generally these teachers think they know more than they actually do, and if I trust them/listen to them/try to do what they are coaching/pushing/prodding me to do, I can get seriously damaged.] Today’s teacher had my best interests in mind; and yes, she helped me do fun stuff, but she also helped me stay safe. And I deeply appreciate that.
- Towards the end of class, we were instructed to lay back on our mats – and more than one student bumped her head into some of the gear she had scattered around her space. (Blankets, blocks, purses, bags, water bottles, etc.) The teacher then said (in a somewhat irked tone), “You know, it’s supposed to be all Zen around your yoga mat – not busy and cluttered. We’re doing yoga, not going camping.” That comment absolutely cracked me up, because:
1) I appreciated that the teacher was being real; she wasn’t putting on an “oh-I’m-fine-and-totally-chill-and-perfectly-peaceful” air when in fact she was peeved, and
2) I appreciated her nudging each of us to look at our total practice – to move beyond just the poses. I am “guilty” of bring in more crap than what I might need in a 75-minute class session; so now I get to look at that. What is that one behavior really a larger “symptom” of? My bringing-in-too-much extends beyond the yoga studio; I tend to over-pack in all areas of my life: my suitcase, my lunch bag, my purse, my schedule, my life goals… so what might that be pointing to? What might I need to examine? Interesting how a simple little comment can yield so much…
So, wow. Today yielded a pretty amazing class for me. And yet, there’s one more thing:
After the class had finished, and I had put on my coat and shoes, and was actually physically outside the studio and walking to my car, I happened to pass by one of the other students from the class making her way towards her car. She saw me and smiled, and I smiled back. She then said to me, “You have a beautiful practice.” I smiled again, and thanked her. What I didn’t let her know – and what I am deeply grateful for – is that I didn’t notice her practice at all. During the entire class, I was focused exclusively on me. I didn’t look at anyone else to see what they were doing. I didn’t compare myself to anyone else. I didn’t puff myself up for being able to do things other people might not have been able to do, and I didn’t berate myself for not being able to go as deep/far/high as others might have been able to go. I just focused on what I could do, and what I felt like, and where my mind was – and stayed really connected to my own self: physically, mentally, and emotionally. And that is amazing. It is a profound shift in so many ways; it would take me much too long to list them all here. Suffice to say, that woman’s single comment initiated a powerful chain of realizations within myself; it was a beautiful finishing touch on an already wonderful experience.