Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I teach people, not pretzels.

Several times recently, I've been told by different people that "oh, I can't come to a yoga class, I'm so not flexible," or "I want to come to yoga, maybe once I can touch my toes, I can go to a yoga class."

I hear this, and I get it.  But it makes me sad.

It makes me sad because, for years, I took yoga classes and could not ever touch my toes.  I'd be holding onto my knee or my shin and looking around me and being maybe a little jealous of the all the toe touching going on around me.  I'd ask teacher's after class, "how can I work on my hamstrings flexibility?"  But there's no magic ticket to any kind of flexibility.  And if I'd waited to take yoga until I had that flexibility, I surely would not now be teaching. 

I now tell my students that forward folds teach patience.  And patience is its own kind of flexibility.

It makes me sad because it speaks to the way our culture views 'yoga' as being that magazine cover photograph of a superstar yogini with seemingly no physical limitations.  Yoga may very well get you to that pose one day.  But this perspective misses the whole point of yoga as a practice.  The practice that is yoga is an internal one, slowly unfolding moment to moment, breath to breath, over the course of years.  Yoga is a bringing-into-balance, not a getting-to-extremes-quickly.

It makes me sad because maybe these people don't actually want to come to a yoga class.  It could very well be that for whatever reason (they've heard so much about the health benefits and think they *should do yoga or they just don't want to insult me) they're just saying that they would come to a yoga class if it weren't for their inflexibility as a nice way of saying "I don't like yoga."  Maybe they DONT ACTUALLY WANT to do yoga or come to a yoga class. And that means that they are hiding thier own truth, they are habitually lying to self and to others.  I would rather hear that yoga sucks than see someone hiding from their own experience in this way.

It makes me sad because if these people do actually want to come to yoga, and really do feel they can't until x y or z; then they are missing out.  Not only are they missing out on time on the mat right now, chances are they are missing out on life.  Our daily responses are manifestations of our habits.  So if I put up barriers and reasons why-not against this one thing I really want to do; its likely I am doing exactly that in other aspects of my life.  What else is this person saying no to when they could be saying yes?

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