The Gentle (Competent) Yoga Teacher

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You know when a yoga teacher wags their finger in front of the class and says, “Okay, but really pay attention to why you are avoiding That pose” while simultaneously raising up the right corner of her mouth in a smirk to say, “I know exactly why you are avoiding That pose.”  Often the teacher is new; she may be two decades younger than you; and usually the teacher really knows nothing about why you may be avoiding a pose.

I honestly think it comes out like some sort of automatic verbal diarrhea the way some of us say over and over, “The answers are within” without really thinking about whether or not the comment is relevant to the context.

I’ve been searching for a gentle (competent) yoga teacher now for a while.  And every time I find something different, I do my best to learn something; huh, how could I teach differently?  Why does this way feel so harsh to me?  Why, no matter how hard I try, do I just feel tense in this class?

In the last month; I keep arriving at the yoga studio to the same teacher that I given a choice, simply wouldn’t take her class.  I don’t smirk at this teacher; I’m never remotely rude; I’ve just decided that God damn it this is my life; and I really love those teachers that by example, teach me to be gentle with myself.

So anyways, her sequences are logical and make sense; her directions also make sense; and she can demonstrate a handstand press while giving useful instructions.  She is totally fine; totally has a place to be teaching yoga; and is absolutely not my yoga teacher.   She is a reminder to me of how there really is a large enormous fitness market; and a much smaller market for the yoga that says slow down dear darling human being, you are enough.

I’ve recently started backing off a lot in my yoga practice; I don’t do headstand (anywhere); I don’t do shoulderstand; and I skip chatarunga when I find that I can’t breathe deeply.  I have to remind myself over and over what my intention is in yoga to keep myself on track; I want to pay attention to the present moment and be gentle with myself.  I hate feeling like I have to defend my choices when I know exactly why I’m choosing something.

I have a flattened cervical spine; and ongoing pain on both sides of my neck running primarily down my left trapezius.  It’s only recently that I’ve come to the conclusion that lifting my arms over my head over and over again (even while keeping them wide) maybe just not be the best choice for my irritated traps.  I have had 7 months of chiropractic care and my neck is still flat and my ability to extend and rotate my neck is limited.  It’s why I always get so jealous of owls and their damn 14 cervical vertebrae; I feel about an owl’s neck the way some women feel about a supermodel’s legs.   Plus, Owls can fly; and they hoot which makes them probably superior to humans.

So next time a teacher demands that you do shoulderstand, maybe remind them, “I do not have 14 vertebrae.  I am not a an owl.”

Or simply remember this; you are the only authority on you and your body.  And you not only have a different neck than an owl, but also a different neck than the yogi next to you.


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