July 7-22, 2021
I suggested and helped give a particular hip-shift to a student in the on-the-back twist in class earlier in the month. After she was in the pose for a little while after that, she said, “So you want this hip to move back?” After thinking for a moment, I said, “That’s an interesting way of saying it,” as I moved back over to her. I said, “Let’s try a rephrase: When you move that hip back, what happens?” and she said, “I don’t feel the pain in my sacroiliac joint.” I repeated, “When you move that hip back in this position, then you don’t feel the pain in your S.I. joint. (pause)…Yes, I guess that is something that I want.” (As, more importantly, she did, too.)
(I do recognize that her asking what “I” wanted MAY really have meant what “a person” wants in the pose, but it landed in my mind as “me” and brought all this out. I feel the need to clarify where I’m coming from in my teaching, and I hope it’s applicable to others in their lives.)
I honestly felt uncomfortable when she asked me the question initially. For years I have taken as my job, to “get (ME) out of the way,” a practice I initially received from my Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training, so when she asked what I wanted, part of me cringed. I have a good bit of practice of letting people be in pain if they don’t want to change or take my suggestions, and I can be OK with that if that’s what they choose though it’s NOT my preference, but I don’t ever feel in control of the people in my classes. I’m never MAKING anyone do anything; everyone makes their choice(s) moment to moment and if they don’t like my suggestions, they are completely free to change back to the other way. I never totally know if any adjustment or suggestion or idea will end up OK anyway, and so I ask.
For myself, it’s not so much about what I want to happen—in class, in the world, even in my own life—but more about if I have a perspective and knowledge that can be applicable in a particular moment in time, I want to offer that, and people can take it or leave it. I hope I’m not so ego-centered to think others should “try to see it my way,” (as per the Beatles) and all will be well. The core of the teaching recently from Erich Schiffmann (Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness) is to ask for guidance from Infinite Mind (or substitute your own preferred “name”) by asking “I want to do what You would have me do. What would You have me do?” That is honestly how I try to steer in Yoga practice, Yoga teaching, and as much of Life as I’m able.
I also personally feel the need to write this as I don’t want to be put in any kind of “Guru” role where ANYONE feels it’s their job to give me what I want. I don’t think that’s where this specific (powerful) woman was coming from in her question, and I’m mostly writing this for MY peace of mind and need to clarify in case anyone might think otherwise. No one is (YOU are) in no way responsible to act from what you think I want. When I offer any assist, or what you take as guidance or advice, (see blog post from 2018 on Unsolicited Advice), take it more as information for yourself, and if you find it helpful, please try to implement it in your practice in the future and drop what isn’t; that is what I’ve done from all of my Yoga training, and I have found it helpful. But don’t think it’s THE END, because it really might just be one step on a (potentially many-stepped) process. People and bodies change…and what you do in any pose (or relationship, parenting, life, job, etc.) may need to change in the future.
I try to take my Yoga asana (pose) practice as an exploration, so things end up more like, “if I do [such-and-such], then [this particular thing/s] happens, and if I do [this other thing], then [this other thing] happens.” One of those things is usually—but certainly not always—going to feel better in one moment (and possibly all future moments). If so, then that becomes part of our “steering mechanism” in the exploration. It’s also possible that either way feels fine, just different, and then we have to use more subtle senses or intuition to know what to do in the moment and where to go from there. (Seeing any possible relation to life in the world here yet?)
Anyway, those are the main things I wanted to convey here, and ending with, if I offer an assist or suggestion, and it feels worse, please change it. That having been said, MANY have found my assists at times to made it harder to maintain the pose but simultaneously felt weirdly, or “inconveniently,” better. Paraphrasing another woman a couple weeks back, in an assist in a cobra-like back-bend, “My butt has to work a LOT harder…but it feels better in my low back.” But it’s still your choice: Do you want to do (or can you actually do) that harder work (in that moment)? Either way, welcome to Yoga! 🙂
You are in my heart. Come on down for this (what I hope and expect to be) “moment” of small, personal classes as the gradual re-awakening from the lock-down attitude occurs.