Monday, July 18, 2011
Practicing Yoga, Practicing Humility
Every time I think a bad thought about someone (which I shouldn't do), I stub my toe. HARD. Or I bang my elbow into my desk. HARD. Or my knee on the side of the bed. HARD. I like to think of this excruciating pain as Whoever's-Up-There's little way of teaching me a lesson about humility. It's like when I walk around at work, smug about whatever I'm being smug about and an email goes ping! in my inbox and it's a withering dressing down from someone or other that sends me hiding under my desk for the rest of the afternoon (not that I actually do that ... well ... not for a whole afternoon). Like, ouch. Nothing like some humiliation to bring you down to earth.
Lessons in humility make their way to my yoga practice every time I step on my mat. Whether it's the time I lost my balance whilst perching gracefully in crow, causing me to fall on my face, HARD, and the guy next to me to whisper an infuriating, "smooth", or when I've arrogantly anticipated a pose, only to find the entire class remaining in downward dog for a few extra breaths - I know I can work on being more humble.
As I've mentioned before, I use Lauren's rare absences from teaching to try another instructor's class (read about how I humiliated myself at the Iyengar Institute here) and learn something new about my yoga practice, so I recently decided to sample Simon Bradley's Tuesday hatha class at Jubilee Hall Trust. Fairly less dynamic than Lauren's Vinyasa flow class, Simon focuses on correct alignment, holding poses, and understanding the anatomy and physiology behind an asana. It took me one class to realize that I had developed some pretty bad habits, including the fact that my stance in Warrior One was severely shortened and my Warrior Two was downright lazy. I was mortified. Mortified, but humbled. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes when Simon corrected the very subtle misalignment of my toes in King Cobra pose, citing that as the reason for my toes not reaching closer to my head but was surprised to find how much more space that minor correction gave me. Again, I was reminded of Lauren's constant but gentle reminding that yoga is a journey, not a means to an end. In an hour, I discovered just how complacent I had become in my practice and how deeply unsatisfying that was. I was sad to recognize that I'd stopped being mindful in Lauren's class and perhaps prideful instead. Simon's class was like that email in my inbox - the wake-up call I needed to shake me from my place in the clouds.
I think it's great to stick to a teacher or style of yoga you like, but I don't think it's beneficial to shy away from new experiences. These experiences may be uncomfortable - they may even be humiliating - but in those moments of clarity, of slamming your knee into the bed frame, you receive a sliver of enlightenment (not to mention, a heck of a lot of pain).