If I learned one thing during my last weekend of yoga teacher instruction, I learned many. But one thing in particular stands out ~
the necessity for me to get out of the way of myself.
As I start to write this, Sting’s “Why Should I Cry For You?” starts to play and I think, “ahh, now I can write,”… It draws me inward and centers me like no other song does. I don’t know what it is about that song ~ the melody, the lyrics, the rhythm, the mental picture of the ocean that arises without fail every time I hear it. It’s one of the songs in the The Living Sea movie, and I find it very peaceful and filled with emotion. It reminds me to take a minute and breathe, to remember just how vulnerable yet how strong we all are in this life we live. And if we just get out of the way of ourselves, we may see a bit more, feel more, experience more.
In a blog a time or two before, I’ve mentioned my uneasiness in sharing personal information in a semi-large group setting. We have what’s called Sharing Circle after our first practice each Saturday that starts our teacher time together, in which we share something (significant or not) that’s happened over the past month. And I STILL find it difficult to offer up something personal about myself. I’m not one to share and open-up to just anyone, right. But I thought at the very least it would improve, that my willingness to share would become easier throughout this process… But it hasn’t. I remain just as hidden as when I started. Probably the only thing they know about me is that I am a single mother of 3 girls and that I love yoga. Sure, I’ve had one-on-one conversations with some of them and even smaller group conversations when I’ve shared this or that. But in general, I would say I held back from opening up when I totally could have and should have. I love these yogis. They’ve become friends of mine and I trust them. So why do I keep the fence up?
The same issue came up in discussion after I finished my 75-minute practice teach on Sunday. I received some really great feedback! Always nice to hear. And one of the girls was so into her practice with me that she teared up at the end. It moved me to know I was able to allow her the space and time to delve inward. However, one of the offerings given to me afterwards was simply to let my guard down a bit, show some vulnerability to my potential students ~ perhaps tell them how my hamstrings are tight or give an example of a struggle I’ve had. Yeah simple to some of you, absolutely… but not to me. However it makes perfect sense! To relate to someone, you need to know something about them to relate to. And maybe if a student in my class has tight hamstrings and sees other people completely folding in half into seated forward bend, they may feel a bit intimidated. Or if someone can’t find strength and stability in Balancing half-moon and sees everyone around them still and focused in full expression, they may feel insecure about their practice in that moment. But if they hear that my hamstrings are tight as an instructor, or that I almost gave up on yoga in the beginning because I couldn’t balance in Balancing half-moon, they may not be so judge mental about themselves. They may give themselves some latitude, some grace, some permission to find the shape that works for them in that moment ~ and therefore finding a more meaningful experience in their practice for the day.
As teachers, our goal is to make way for our students to journey inward, to have that present moment experience of feeling connected with ourselves, each other, and the world around us ~ to have that blissful feeling we all hope to find in our yoga class. As we withdraw our senses from the external and focus on something internal (i.e. our breath or muscle sensation), we practice pratyahara and awake an awareness within. Once we turn the focus inward, we start to narrow our concentration, practicing dharana, and begin to still the mind. This is when a gateway for meditation can be found. And through meditation, through dhyana, we focus our mind on one thing for a period of time (for advanced students, that period of time is about 15 seconds) and reach samadhi, union with the divine, a state of bliss where there is a shift of consciousness. Samadhi can only be realized retrospectively. If we’re thinking about finding it, we’re focusing on an external concept. It’s when we have a shift of consciousness and “go somewhere” for a moment. Our consciousness returns and we think, “Oh wow, I went somewhere for a bit. That was cool!” Kind of like a daydream but all while finding balance between effort and ease between posture and breath (asana and pranayama). And we, as instructors, can foster such a delightful experience/environment by using specific language and by showing our own vulnerability.
So I’m going to do my best at getting out of the way of myself ~ to worry less about what others think of me ~ to fear less of judgement from others and to offer nuggets of my soul. Because what I give is what I give. We are not responsible for how other people translate or interpret our gifts, our offerings, our person, or our lives. Whether someone accepts it or not, buys into it or listens to it or not is up to them. Not us. Let go of that unnecessary attachment.
Let your spirit flow. Let the prana flow right through you. Artists do this all the time. Whether you sculpt, write, photograph, paint, perform… you must get out of the way of yourself to let the inspiration flow, to let whatever it is that is trying to come by and through you onto the canvas of life to be shared with others. Swaha…
Namaste, my loves. Om shanti.