A Yogic Lesson

I supposed any ‘exercise’ in life, be it mental or physical, is a learning opportunity on a number of levels. Something that dawned on me the other day whilst in the midst of teaching a yoga class and I have been pondering it ever since. Herewith my findings, which I hope, might give you pause to think – and possibly benefit from in a variety of realms.

It’s natural as one becomes more familiar with poses, postures, routines, teachers and directions, that one starts to pre-empt. So confident are we that we know where we are going that the inclination to really listen is somewhat impaired.

Often, although I have clearly stated a command, a pupil here or there, front row or back, it matters not, will be so engrossed in what they think I’ve said that they place the opposite foot, in the wrong pose.

Indeed this happens to me in my own practice. So sure am I that I know the end point that I move into it paying attention not at all to the guidance, but specifically to my own intention, only to realize through gentle correction or personal confusion that my classmates are elsewhere literally and mentally.

Yoga has taught me that more often than not I am assuming, and not listening. It take tremendous self-control to shift aside ones predispositions and actually pay close attention when one thinks one knows almost everything. I am by nature inclined to think I know ‘almost everything’ so this is a particularly tricky skill for me to master. But I stroke my battered ego by hoping that the small acknowledgement that I might not have the knowledge must be personal growth of some sort.

I am trying especially hard to hear the directions my teacher issues, rather then preempt them. Not an easy thing to do as the ever-active ego is so inclined to interfere and take over. Yoga is, in fact, an exercise in keeping ones’ ego under control – on and off the mat – let alone mastering the poses.

Perhaps this is what draws me to yoga above all else; it is not purely a challenge of the physical body, but more importantly a focus on the workings of the psychological body. The former is far easier to channel than the later, so ones work is never really over.

As a teacher my biggest challenge is to limit my directions to the most salient points. I am verbose at the best of times, which can be tricky for students balancing on one leg in an inversion. So it is a small wonder that they switch off and start following their internal directives. A small step in the right direction of reigning in my wordy descriptions is to attempt to listen to myself.

Easier said than done, I am finding.

As a student, it is the opposite. There must be a concerted effort to tear my mind away from the shrill internal voice and concentrate on someone else’s, to pay acute attention to the subtleties, which are so easy to ignore.

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.