I suppose any ‘exercise’ in life, be it mental or physical, is a learning opportunity on a number of levels. My wholehearted faithfulness to yoga is due almost entirely to the fact that I am constantly challenged both mind and body. And despite years, decades even, of practicing, I can say with honesty that I never come to the end of a class without having tested myself on more than one level.
Yoga has taught me the importance of listening closely as opposed to assuming I know where I’m going, what’s coming next or what will follow thereafter. Listening tugs me out of the ‘next’ and into the ‘now’. I find that rather hard. It takes tremendous self-control to shift aside my predispositions and actually pay close attention. To listen acutely, minutely and best, I must be able keep myself in that narrow tunnel of concentration so that I don’t veer off track.
Part of preempting which pose is coming next or the transition to get into it is the devilish ego convincing me I know what I’m doing because I’ve done it before. This ever-active ego of mine is so inclined to interfere and take over. Yoga is, in fact, an exercise in keeping one’s ego under control. It’s an ongoing internal battle for me to be receptive, acutely tuned-in to verbal input and highly aware of physical feedback dragging me back from the illusion that I know what I’m doing. Reigning in that little ‘know it all’ tendency of mine is, well, hard and constant work. But recognizing its impish presence is the beginning of fencing it in.
As a teacher, my biggest challenge is to limit my directions to the most salient commands and curbing my natural tendencies towards over complicated metaphor-laced instructions which can confuse and worse still, aggravate students. A small step in the right direction of reigning in my wordy descriptions is an attempt to listen to myself. Easier said than done, I am finding.
On and off the mat it is a steep learning curve but one which reminds me that the challenges of life are often overcoming the most simple of hurdles. Yoga continually reinforces that lesson for me. Hence I am constantly intrigued as my practice develops, or needs to, as I said in my opening paragraph – on so many levels.