Last weekend I started my Yoga Teacher Training at Blossom Yoga here in town. I’ve decided to embark on this 200-hour journey because a) the training places me decidedly in the role of student, which I’ve missed, and b) afterwards, I will be able to share my love of yoga with some legitimate confidence (and you all know how I love sharing!).
I find being a student particularly freeing. Being in a position of learning means there is no need to pretend to know things you don’t, or “fake it ’til you make it.” It’s a position of humility, and openness. You aren’t required to have your mind made-up about things; it’s okay to admit ignorance. As a student in teacher training, we naturally have homework assignments. And as one of the class’s homework assignments, I am to write about how my worldview of yoga has evolved or changed after the first weekend of training. Since I promised to share a little about my yoga weekend with you all, I felt it was appropriate to post the response to that question here as well.
Yoga has been a way for me to re-center and realign myself (physically, spiritually, and emotionally), and to awaken my mind to the simple presence of my body, through linking the breath to movement. And for many, yoga is a way to relax and de-stress because, as demonstrated in several medical studies, yoga actually slows down the metabolism. Yoga is also a way to love and appreciate your body which, in many ways, runs against mainstream Western culture, known for encouraging the mind’s control of the body, and thus separating the two. We often try to stuff ourselves into punishing clothes (skinny jeans, Spanx, belts, bras, high heels, etc.), try to force our bodies to shrink by withholding certain foods (gluten, dairy, desserts, carbs, etc.) or engaging in certain practices (juice cleanses, etc.), and compare our bodies to highly visible images of people who look good for a living (models, actors, performers, etc.). This is obviously unfair, and yoga has become a great stepping stone on the path of healing for those who have suffered at the hands of fad diets, body image issues, and other physical challenges.
I also love yoga because it makes me feel good! My flexibility has gotten so much better in the past three years, and I’m able to focus much more acutely on my weight distribution, balance, and exertion in different areas of my body, which is GREAT for climbing!
As you can see, my focus in practicing yoga has been largely on how doing different poses makes me feel, and not so much on the other stuff, of which there is a LOT, apparently. I am already familiar with many poses (even if I can’t do them!) and what those poses accomplish in my body – as in, if I do a lot of chair pose, aka utkatasana (which you can see here) one night, the next morning my quadriceps are guaranteed to be sore. I’m beginning to learn exactly what’s happening to my body in a pose like utkatasana, and why certain tiny, precise movements in the fingers, toes, etc. are so important.
And this is the stuff I love about yoga – in a challenging pose you can take your mind away from, say, your abs, and instead to your knuckles. Are they touching the mat? How far apart are they? Do they feel weak, or strong? Do they feel energized? And this realization, this ability to intimately experience your body, is really quite powerful.
I’m looking forward to learning more about the history of yoga. And though learning something’s past is an important part of knowing that thing in full, its past does not define it, which is something we discussed in class as well. As classical composer Gustav Mahler once put it, “Tradition is the handing on of the flame, not the worship of ashes.”