Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Going to a Yoga Class is Great! Listening While You're there is Better

I love teaching 'advanced' poses to my students.  They're just party tricks, really, but they give students confidence, a sense of accomplishment, and the drive to come back to class week after week...and they're party tricks that build core strength, and generally offer all the benefits of an inversion: that's a win win win!

On Tuesday, I specifically prefaced a few sets of dolphin dives (forearm down dog to forearm plank and back) by telling my students that when they finally get to a full headstand, they'll be surprised by how easy it is. Being upside down on your head is easy because you're just bone stacking: it's just like standing on your feet, but upside down.  The trouble is, the long bones of your legs are uniquely designed to bear the weight of your body, and your muscles have had years to learn how to safely support your weight in this position. When you flip it around, your muscles don't know how to lend their support, but they're needed more than ever, because your seven little neck bones are NOT designed to support the weight of your body. Proper shoulder alignment, and proper shoulder, arm, core, leg (everything, really), engagement is crucial for you to inhabit that space safely.
And yet...when we were playing with crow pose later, and a student asked me to demo the end-game: a transition to tripod headstand, they ALL responded with, "Oooooh, we can do THAT!  That look easy; why are we doing this crow pose?"
Um...weren't you here ten minutes ago?

Crow pose is all about using muscles that it's not immediately obvious you're depending upon to get you into the shape, and make it possible to stay there.  Once you have the strength to sustain that pose, and the control to lower the crown of your head slowly the floor, I know you're ready to safely attempt a headstand.
Kicking yourself up against the wall provides no such feedback.

Maybe I should have seen the writing on the wall when I had to repeat instructions a few times before all the students in the room were clear on where their feet were going.  A couple of them were too busy predicting where I was going based on previous classes, or a previous flow from this class, or standard flows that pop up in most vinyasa classes...instead of listening to the instructions I was giving.

And this doesn't make them bad students, or unusual ones: I've gotten ahead of myself in many a yoga class, thinking I can see where the teacher is going with a shape only to find out she's making a transition I'd never seen before, or thinking I knew a pose so well I didn't need to listen to the verbal cues...only to find myself getting some heavy hands-on correction because I didn't pay attention to what aspect of the pose we were working on.

Not anticipating is a constant theme in my personal yoga practice, learning to tune in and heed every word, and when I do know what's coming up, because we just wrapped up the sequence on the first side, not letting my mind go there, where frustration, and resistance to muscular discomfort, or a pose I struggle with, are all I'll find.

The lessons of yoga about staying in the moment are applicable in your daily life, but, big surprise, they're also a big help in the classes themselves!

Listen to your teacher.  Really listen.  You'll stay safe, you'll get better, and you just might learn something!

Live Omily,

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