I taught a private yoga session to a woman recently that was just starting a yoga practice. She was interested in getting into shape and felt that yoga would be a helpful tool. She came to the mat with a bit of self-taught yoga experience but wanted to learn the alignment for each pose.
I often get students who have learned through experience and exposure to different teachers and classes but never had a one-on-one session to ensure they really understand the poses. While this is not necessary, it can be really useful to one’s understanding of yoga and can greatly increase one’s enjoyment as well as allow one to practice in a safe way for both the short and long term.
However, many times, when people have preconceived ideas of how the poses are to look and have self-taught themselves alignment, it takes a bit of “un-learning” to undo some habits that have development along the way. When I work with people, this process can often be met with frustration. It’s hard to undo patterns of movement. Think about every time you go to a yoga class and the teacher encourages you to “relax your shoulders.” Think about how many times you realize they’re up by your ears and you didn’t even know it.
But the other night, as I worked with this wonderful woman and we identified a few things to modify in her practice, she immediately burst out laughing. She thought it was hysterical that she could not change her alignment in a particular transition. She kept doing it over and over again, I kept gently correcting her and finally, after a while, she exclaimed, “I got it!”
This is a wonderful feeling. It reminds me of the feeling you may have experienced when you were learning how to ride a bike without training wheels. You fell a few times, trying to find your center of gravity, but then after a few tries, you stayed vertical and it felt great! This is often the feeling on the mat. You’re trying to combine both your conscious mind as well as your sensory mind. You know the direction you’re headed but it takes a few tries to get there.
Laughter is great thing to add to your yoga practice. Laughing releases “feel good” hormones into your system. Laughter helps you keep things light. Laughter is a wonderful way to demonstrate compassion for yourself. Laughter shows others that you don’t take yourself so seriously. Laughter shows other people that you’re willing to show yourself and therefore, encourages them to show their true self also.
After my session with her, I practiced the next day. My balance was off for some reason and I found myself struggling with many poses that usually come easily to me. In each pose, as my ankles wavered and I re-established my base, I found myself smiling as I thought of my new student and her great attitude. They say “our students are our best teachers” and this was truly an example of that!