Today I attended my second (of three) small-group mentor meetings. (If you missed the summary of session #1, you can read it here.) Three of my peers taught a 30-40 minute segment from a class they developed; during (and after) the debrief of each one,
I had a few different awarenesses come to me. Below is a brief summary of some of the notes I took.
Section 1: Practical Items
- Before I begin a class, ask if anyone does not want to be touched or adjusted.
- At the beginning of each class I teach, encourage the students to use appropriate modifications. Remind students that they are responsible for their own bodies; they need to care for themselves. What I offer in a class are suggestions, but modifications are always an option (and are encouraged).
- Down dog to forward fold – an option is to have people walk their hands back to their feet (instead of always stepping/jumping feet to hands).
- In poses where the back is facing the ceiling (like hands-and-knees), encourage students to breathe in to the back body; feel the spine rise and fall, and lengthen and release…
- An alternative to standard cat/cow is to do a “wavy”/long cat, and then scoop up into cow – it’s very fun! I love it.
- Instead of using the phrase “table top” (which is hard and harsh and inaccurate [no human can form a perfectly flat surface with their back, so why even try??]), I can say, “Come to all fours”, or “Come to hands and knees”…
- A nice way to have people find samasthiti is by rocking back-&-forth and side-to-side on the feet – like a pendulum swinging towards all extremes until it slows, and finally rests in the ‘true’ center.
- In transitioning from laying-down savasana (at the end of the class) to sitting upright (and moving into the final closure piece), encourage students to stay in the still seated space for a moment. Our mentor called it “tasting savasana while sitting.” Remind students that we can experience savasana anywhere; we don’t have to be only lying on our backs to have this experience of peace and stillness and calm…
Section 2: Practical Items with an Emotional Component
- Before I step on my yoga mat and assume the role of ‘teacher’, I need to center myself before I try to lead students. I need to do my best to set aside whatever might be going on ‘out there’, and focus on the immediate task before me
(i.e., opening up to the essence of yoga). Hopefully I can then do my best to ensure that I only transmit loving, compassionate, yogic energy.
- Our mentor pointed out that nearly all physically healthy humans can cross their arms without using their feet – i.e., to fold one arm over the other is easy to do, and doesn’t require struggle or effort. So, if a person’s body is truly open and unencumbered, they should be able to do the same with their legs – i.e., they should be able to fold one leg over the other without using their hands, without ‘forcing’ their legs to go into a half-lotus or full-lotus position. If a person’s legs can’t enter that position naturally (without strain or external force), that just means their legs aren’t ready to do that position – so we shouldn’t make their legs try to “get there”. To force our body to do anything it isn’t ready to do is not ahimsa; and if we are truly practicing non-violence, we will start by being loving and gentle with ourselves. This ‘litmus test’ of leg-crossing is also a great way to check our egos; if we feel like we “have to” or “should be able to” do something that we just can’t do (yet), why is it that we feel that way? Nine out of ten times it’s because of ego…
Section 3: Emotional (and Spiritual) Items
- Our mentor’s focus in yoga is fluidity, not rigidity. Our mentor also uses language that is suggestive versus directive; our mentor uses examples and illustrations instead of strict rules and guides. Our mentor also demonstrates physically instead of relying solely on verbal cueing. Originally I signed up for this mentoring offering (versus choosing some other teacher) because this schedule was most agreeable with mine, and because I knew this individual, and generally ‘liked’ their overall teaching style. But (believing that truly everything happens for a purpose) I am now seeing more and more some of the ‘real’ reasons why this teacher was put into my path.
- Yoga is about accessing internal wisdom, and then trusting it and allowing it to inform our lives. Each one of us already internally ‘knows’ everything we need to know; and each one of us already knows everything we yearn to know. We simply need to quiet down, settle down, and tune in – and allow what is in us to be revealed. We don’t have to search; we just have to listen. We know more than we think we do – because what we know is in our heart, not in our head.
Our mentor ended today’s session with a comment, and a piece of advice:
1. “Eventually the internal and the external merge into one.”
2. “Find your own path.”