Friday, February 26, 2010

Dynamic Alignment

Alignment in yoga is not rigid. When we are new to yoga, it could be easy to be confused... People want to know that they are doing things "right".

"Is this right?" students have asked me over and over again: because I offer instruction. If someone has practiced for a while and asks that, sometimes I will put it back to them: you (the student) tell me (the one temporarily in the teaching role).

As a teacher, it is my job to see that students are working with the poses in the way that will best serve them. So I do offer plenty of suggestions and modifications as needed. And I am incredibly blessed to have the kind of detailed training that I have had. But if it is the habit of the student to depend on my eyes to see if they are doing it "right", then it might be time to offer another suggestion in line with my goal as a teacher to teach students to work with Yoga themselves.

I am also suspicious of the 'doing things right' question because it can be close to a confirmation of the question: am I a 'good boy' or 'good girl' for the student. And, yes I teach adults. But many of us didn't get the blessing we needed as children. And deeply important questions can remain unanswered like: 'Do I belong here' or 'Is my existence good?' Considering this observation, the expectations of the student-teacher relationship, and my own experience of having this deep subconscious need met in my own adulthood, I respond differently to this sort of question depending on the situation. It depends...

With a new student I teach as well as I can how to do the pose, because we have to start somewhere. And (just know that) I am still learning Yoga too, and I recognize that there is always more to discover and learn. So it is not just "new students" who can learn poses. I think we all can.

If I have the opportunity of seeing the beautiful light of someone's spirit, and I see what might be that needy little boy or girl in someone's eyes who missed their blessing somehow, I will honor and bless them as best as I can.

What I am especially thinking about today are regular students who seem to prefer my acknowledgement that the pose is "right" to their own seasoned sensibilities. There is a time, a wonderful time, to take responsibility for your yoga! And I am still happy to offer support and instruction as needed... But the Yoga is Yours! Fly with It! Explore It! See where you go with It!

The Alignment is Dynamic in so many ways! The shapes of our bodies are different, so my expression of a pose will look different than yours. Also teaching poses to raw beginners is different than teaching seasoned practitioners. And then there is the matter of aligning ones spirit to the expression of the body and outward to expression in the larger world. Totally dynamic.

And just like we need to take responsibility for our yoga when the timing is appropriate, so also do we need to take responsibility for the blessing of our own spiritual inspirition when the timing is appropriate.


Unknown said...

Strict alignment teaching in yoga has always been a turn off for me. It seems to say that the way your body does yoga is not o.k. There are some yoga teachers who carry a stick (yes, really) and force bodies into alignment that does not support the blossoming of each person's body in yoga. Thanks to teachers like you, Brooks, one can find the proper alignment for one's unique body.

speck of dust said...

This is a lovely post. I really enjoyed reading it. I have started a new yoga class with a teacher who moved me while I was in position. With her help I was able to go much further into positions than I knew I could and it was a great feeling. I saw her body as an extension of mine helping me to reach a new place I couldn't have gone to on my own. This is a very new place for me to be as I used to have such major body and intimacy issues I would have been very uncomfortable being touched at all. The needy student can easily become the independent thinker just by practicing yoga, they will learn the lessons or not. :)

Laura said...

I love your use of the word dynamic here me it suggests flow, possibility and listening deeply to our body's and energy's needs in the moment. Beautiful.

Eco Yogini said...

so fantastic. I agree, for myself alignment has always been important so I don't hurt myself... but never the 'goal' of the pose.

I never thought about taking responsibility for MY yoga... but that paragraph really resonated with me.

Thank you Brooks. :)

(ps- maybe the little sauce container does leak- i doubt it was your fault! :) )

YogaforCynics said...

A couple days ago it was pointed out to me that I tend at times to hold, or attempt, certain asanas until I basically collapse out of them...which is, exactly a case of trying too hard to do things "right" as defined, I think, elsewhere in the room, rather than listening to what my own body is almost screaming at me...making your post quite fitting...