Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ahimsa as Non-Judgement and more limbs:

Is it judgement, as a trained practitioner /instructor, when you are a participant in a yoga class and you see someone doing something so wrong for their body that you want to reach out and say "wait - that's going to hurt...please don't." Or is it concern? Or busybodiness, or nosiness, or just plain invasive? What is the boundary?

I have to think about it in this context: If I was a nutritionist, would I stop someone who was overweight at a restaurant from dipping their french friend in cheddar cheese soup, drinking a milkshake then going outside for a smoke? But then again, coming to a yoga class to learn is different than coming to a restaurant to eat. If someone offered me bad quality food, I WOULD want another food specialist to speak up and say "that's not properly cooked chicken you might get sick" or even "those greens weren't washed - be careful." Maybe these analogies fail to describe the issue with which I'm struggling.

If the answer to the above hypothetical questions is "no, don't interfere" then who am I as a yoga practitioner to want to help someone out of a knee-torquing foot alignment in warrior one (time after time after time in a hot flow class) or a L5-S1 binding tailbone-up hip-flexor tweaking stance in utkatasana, 10 breath hold?

I've out-of-turn spoken up in someone else's class to offer assistance to another participant who asked for help and been told "I've GOT this" by the instructor. I promptly and sincerely apologized as I realized i had overstepped boundaries. When I'm a class attendee, I have to struggle sometimes to outwardly say nothing when I see bad alignment, or have an instructor doesn't seem to notice struggling students (self included), or cues sequences with transitions that seem to go against the grain with which I was taught - embracing ahimsa (non harming), going inward (pratyahara), balancing strength and softness, effort and ease, being mindful of how your body works, and not forcing it to do things beyond normal limits. In these situations it is supremely my challenge, my process to stay focused on just being in my practice, and filtering in the pieces that work, and out the ones that don't, trying not to NOT concern myself with what's going on around me. Essentially NOT judging the instructor or the studio, and trying to be grateful to have a place practice.

But it's hard. I feel like the message of yoga, the purity of it, the real meaning, gets lost amid the sweat and the "power" and the "pushing to your edge" as studios compete for business and market share and instructors are churned out with less functional teaching skill and more aptitude for making playlists and repeating scripts that are in practice hardly one size fits all.

Sure, I could practice at home and avoid the stress of having to be in a "less than ideal class situation." Frankly, I still find that hard to do, and I really do like group energy. I like the ceremony of walking into a place designed for practice, with sacred space, special lighting, candlelight, and no first world distractions - the biggest challenge not being doing laundry but not THINKING about the laundry I have to do when I get home.

So I go, and I try to focus (dharana). try to be content (santosha), try to flow and breathe until maybe just maybe I'm not watching someone else's warrior two, good or bad, aligned or not, but I'm in a sublime state, easing my way toward dhyana (flow of concentration).

Some studios, and some classes, I never have the struggle of watching other people, or critiquing the teacher. I"m not sure why that is, or what leads to that. is it something purely in my state of mind, the teacher the moon cycle or just fate? Regardless, I'm always grateful to have a class to attend, but I guess I just have expectations that really nicely appointed studios with well worded flyers are going to have skilled yogis leading classes, that I"m going to be educated a bit in the deeper aspects of yoga (not just asana). I guess the learning is more subtle than that, that it (aha moment) comes from within.

So, this post has been a bit revelatory, but I'm still a shade disappointed in the most recent classes I took. One specific example: an instructor actually said "grab your foot and use your leg as leverage to go deep into the twist and crack your back." But I have reaffirmed my path for making sure that *I* teach with integrity and heart, from the source of the eight limbs and not from ego... giving people information that helps them better their practice, not just sweat or pat themselves on the back from having forced their way into a pose.

An instructor with a very different set if teaching skills did pleasantly surprise me and enrich my morning by reminding me "you DID show up so that's the biggest step" True that. Satya all the way.

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