The conversation at the last Daily Bread Yoga retreat (about Transitions) was so good, I wish that I would have recorded some of it. There was a moment when it seemed like we all got it. It was like all of our vision shifted just enough so that we could see transitions in new and different ways.
Particularly memorable for me was when someone shared about a hard transition in her life and how loved ones were trying to help her through it and nearly rescue her out of the transition. She has come to see how much she needed to go through that awkward and uncomfortable time to gain strength, clarity, and confidence in herself. As difficult as it was for people who loved her to watch her go through this, it was hers alone to do.
This reminded me of the times during a yoga class when I see someone who is struggling in a pose or is just new to yoga. It appears that their mind is tripping over itself to try to appear calm and not a total dork, while they feel so physically awkward and uncomfortable. Guh. I totally know that feeling. It is very tempting to move their arms, adjust their feet, and basically fix their body so they don’t look so uncomfortable (to me). Isn’t it so strangely uncomfortable to watch someone who is uncomfortable?
But, from my own experience in yoga, I don’t think that is very helpful. I can give verbal cues and suggest people try turning their foot this way or that, but you need to be able to listen to the cues from your own body and feel what adjustments you need from the inside. After a while of paying attention, you don’t have to rely on a mirror, an instructor, or how you appear on the outside in general, because you can feel when you need to turn your hip out or adjust your feet. If I just “fix” the person and adjust them so they don’t look so awkward, then maybe they won’t develop the strength and confidence in their body and ability to hear the cues from within. And what’s worse, I might be totally off base and get it wrong.
As the instructor, I can only see what is happening on the outside. My vision is limited and also based on my experience of yoga, in my body. I once walked up to a student who was doing Downward Facing Dog (looks like a dog stretching way back) and encouraged him to really press strongly through the floor with his arms so that both arms were straight. I was so embarrassed when he kindly looked at me and said “I am pressing all the way. This arm doesn’t straighten & is several inches shorter than the other. I was born this way.”
You would think I might have noticed that, but I had never seen it. So, if I can’t see that one arm is longer than the other, how would I ever assume to know all the stuff going on for people that effects their body (mind and spirit too) like; depression, divorce, grief, addiction, anxiety, trauma, even an ear infection, for goodness sake.
It’s not that I don’t ever help people out during class or offer some adjustments. But, I try to be careful not to assume what doing the pose “right” looks like for anyone. That’s hard for me to do. It’s even harder off the mat, in my daily life. I see friends and family who I think should be doing things this way or that and I will lie awake at night worrying and thinking about how I might help (or fix) them. But as my friend from the retreat reminds me, it’s their awkward moment and transition to struggle through. And if I’m so uncomfortable watching them struggle, then I better figure out what needs to be adjusted in myself.
Peace on your head and all your awkward and uncomfortableness. I promise to keep my hands to myself. But, I will tell you if your zipper is down & ask that you do the same for me.