1.21.2013

Being My Own Teacher


As many of you know, I practice at home, with rare exception.  I have learned most of what I know from personal experience and books.  Occasionally, I will practice with other ashtangis, and have worked with several different teachers over the years, but never for more than a few weeks or months at a time.  This means that, most often, I have to be my own teacher, which requires a certain degree of separation from myself.

This isn't always easy.  In fact, it can be downright awkward.

This morning, mid-way through a gritty second series, I observed me being hard on myself.  I heard the tension in my throat and saw the tell-tale signs of self-flagellation on my face.  So I stopped myself after Nakrasana, sat myself down, and we had a little chat.

"Listen," I, the teacher, said.  "I know you're feeling discouraged and you're reluctant to add to your practice.  I know that both your knees click, and your hip is tight, and your wrist is rallying for mutiny all the way up your right arm.  But you're in a rut.  It's time."

I, the student, shook my head and stared in disbelief.  "But... Karandavasana?"  I said.  "It isn't even close. . .  My knees and hips will never let it happen."

"Don't say never," I responded.  "You don't know that."

"And Mayurasana?  It's hardly ready.  For Pete's sake, what about Dwi Pada?  I can barely balance..."

"That's not important.  You're doing well.  There is a deceptively fine line between perfectionism and laziness, and you've been walking it for too long.  Let's go.  Vinysasa.  Vatayanasana."

I obeyed with hesitation.  The elaborate entry was awkward, and the posture itself was precarious with a few tumbles at first, but I struck the sweet spot eventually, and my knees were not as strained as I had feared.  First side.  Second side.  Done and done.

I, the teacher, stood nearby and nodded with approval.  "Good.  Let's keep going.  Parighasana is cake."

I was right.  Parighasana is cake.  Sweet, delicious, side stretching, thigh rotating cake.  Right side.  Left side.  My body buzzed with a fresh rush of prana through the following vinyasa.  "Next?"

"Gomukhasana!  Jump!"

Gomukhasana A was strange.  I teetered there atop my snugly folded legs.  But the B variation felt fantastic on my knotted shoulders, like a long awaited treasure at the bottom of a giant bag of Cap'n Crunch.

"One more.  Supta Urdhva."

I struggled through it.  Couldn't bind my foot on either side.  But I did my best, enjoyed the twist, and chuckled at the rest.  Emboldened, I asked, "Headstands?"

But I smiled to myself and shook my head.  "Not today."

10 comments:

  1. I have the same teacher as you, but I think he is less pushy because the student is often pushing too hard (and thus hurting himself)

    Need to spend more time talking directly between the 2 ;)

    Thx for the nice post

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    1. Hi, Louise. It's funny, whenever get to practice with a teacher (who is not me), I usually hear the opposite: "less effort." But it's been a while, and I think maybe I've taken that advice a bit too far...

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  2. Here Here - same same. While I long for the hands of a teacher adjusting me, I probably know there would also come a little more stringent talkin' to moi. But all in all, a 1-3 day guest Ashtanga teacher workshop that I might travel to, and I'm set for a good while.
    Stay the course - it's hard to be both.
    Thanks for all of these posts!

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    1. Hey, ayKim. Agreed. After a weekend workshop, or a week or two (if I'm lucky) with a great teacher, I tend to come away with enough "homework" to keep me busy for a good, long while.

      What's really interesting about being my own teacher, though, is trying to feel my own adjustments (adjustments I give to my students) on myself. It sounds strange, but it really makes a difference to imagine those hands (incidentally, my own) in the right places, encouraging length or softness or strength wherever it is needed.

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  3. I am in awe of your discipline!

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    1. Ha! Thanks, Dottie. Just doing what I love. It's not easy, but it's not all grunt work, either.

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  4. Glad to see my very own Ashtanga Yoga Atlanta teacher giving that adjustment in kurmasana!

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  5. Awesome! And I finally found someone whose knees click too!! Stupid question of the day : why does the clicking happen? Are we stressing our knees out too much? Wrong muscle group we are using? -.-

    Love this post :)

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  6. There's nothing wrong of learning on your own. There are a lot of books and videos where you can learn by yourself however it is different when somebody is guiding you. I take yoga classes before but due to my hectic schedule I decided to learn on my own too.

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