Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A little lunch, a lot of learning

I had a very informative lunch time chat with someone yesterday, and came away with some grist for my mental mill.

Firstly consider this:

The people who are best on the mat are not always the best yogis.

This is a great reminder of what we all know: being able to do splits/ back-bends/ fancy arm balances is great, and has a lot to recommend it, but if you are still grumpy and mean, the yoga is not working. You know your yoga practice is doing what it should when you are a nicer person, happier, calmer, kinder than you used to be.

This came up for me a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to illustrate to a class what 'advanced' yoga is. I was trying to show them that a fancy pose, done without paying attention, is less advanced than a simple pose done with full attention to the breath, body and mind. Only I couldn't come up with a fancy pose to demonstrate! It was an interesting moment; I guess there are a few poses I can do that count as 'advanced'- splits, some interesting shoulderstand and headstand variations, the odd arm balance. But the poses I experience yoga most intensely in are the simple ones - forward bend, child's pose, tree pose. So it was a real 'aha' moment.

Secondly, this:

There is more than one kind of yoga teacher.

I should really know this, but, bless me, I forget. I always think that for someone to be my teacher, I need to be studying yoga postures with them. My teacher Ann is one of those people whose yoga is clearly working in their lives. I go to her with student issues, life issues, issues in general, but I hardly ever go to her asana classes. She is still my teacher. It seems for me right now, I need a spiritual teacher - the asana side of things is to some extent under control or maybe (gasp!) not as important to me as it once was.

Has anyone else had the experience of their yoga changing before their very eyes?


Linda (Sama) said...

absolutely...but maybe it's not so much physical, i.e., doing "advanced" asanas, but more so internal.

I've been teaching for 6 years, but yoga-ing much longer than that. I have found in the last 6 years, especially in the past year, that my teaching style has morphed into my own style that I can not put a name to other than "my style". I find the labels of "vinyasa" or "levels" much too limiting for me now, and I refuse to "name" my classes anymore, except if I was teaching a "yoga basics" class for newbies. I have also found that I almost "channel" my class as I teach, because if someone tells me "hey, good class" afterward, I always have to tell them, "thanks, now tell me what I did because I can't remember...."

I don't even know what "Level 1, 2, 3 or 4" mean anymore and I look at that categorization as purely a western mindset, that we are programmed to put things and people into boxes. Who determines what someone's "level" is?Advancement in yoga comes from the heart and the mind.

Nadine Fawell said...

Hi Linda!
I agree with you, I also have trouble with the category thing. And maybe teaching asana all day moves the interest on to other things.
Would you be open to sharing some of your lesson plans, if you do that sort of thing? I will share mine in return. I tend to start from a plan, then see what people need that day. Email me if you are keen - nadine.fawell@yahoo.co.uk

Karen said...

Come to think of it, I've been doing yoga for almost a year now. And thinking back to when I walked into my first class, my reasons were very different to the reasons I go to yoga religiously every week day. I started yoga get keep fit, lose weight and all the physical reasons you can think of, but now, I started running and cycling to achieve my physical goals, and yoga have become so much more. I go to my yoga classes to satisfy my mental/spiritual needs now. I love how yoga makes me feel - I'm the most important person during that hour or two, when everything is focused on yourself only, and sometimes, life makes you forget that it should be that way all the time. And while I don't think the sarcasm and meaness will ever leave me, I do think I've become a much calmer and nicer person because of yoga!

Nadine Fawell said...

Hi Karen!

Lovely response - thank you! Sounds like the yoga is working.

Cupcakes & Yoga said...

The asana part of yoga is easy for me, it's the other aspects of yoga that I totally struggle with. Its good that you bring this up because we always need to reminded that yoga is not just the physical. I struggle so much with meditation and just being more "yogic", whatever that entails. :)

Danura said...

This post is interesting cos i was chatting online with an 'anonymous' student today (he doesnt know that i know who he is, which makes it more interesting!).

Anyway, he was commenting on another lady student in class saying how perfect her pose was. I quickly asked what perfect really is?

i think i really need to have little chats with my students in class next time and define what as you say 'advance' and 'perfect ' postures are.

I also once commented on a student's remark that if only he could master the headstand, then it will be perfect. i reminded him that mastering one pose is not a measure of a yogi / yogini. i remember this quote from somewhere. i forget.

How closed minded are we really that we can only see what we really can do physically and we forget the little things that make us true and divine.

Ps, id be happy to share my lesson plan with you :)

Mary said...

I think I have an "a-ha" moment every time I go to class! That's what I love about yoga. Each teacher definitely brings out something different in me that another doesn't and I really appreciate this. I used to feel a little uneasy when my usual teachers were subbed but now I look forward to the challenges a new teacher will give me.

PS. I mucked my blog around sadly but the new URL is - ombites.blogspot.com

Nadine Fawell said...

Hey Mary! Sorry to hear about your blog troubles! You are right, it is wonderful how every teacher has a different view!

Regina Clare Jane said...

Again, sorry so late, Nadine!
This is why I love going to different teachers and different studios. I don't like being held down by one place or one style. I like to practice all kinds of styles, and with different teachers, I get different viewpoints and learn different things!
You really sound like a wonderful teacher yourself, very caring and thoughtful! You would be the kind of teacher I would love going to! And yes, I want to learn more now than just postures- give me heart and soul and ecstasy- that's what I want from my yoga!

Nadine Fawell said...


Thank you for the kind words! I would like to be a caring, thoughtful teacher: let's hope I am heading in the right direction.