Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Namaskar Again

I stopped going to yoga about two years ago. I had practiced hatha yoga off and on since about 1996, and I was just tired of it. The classes were not giving me that blissy, open feeling anymore. Instead of emerging refreshed and renewed from shavasana, I was spacey and sleepy, mind still running. I thought that maybe I had changed and yoga wasn't relevant to my current life.

I've been working mornings these past few weeks, including one day each weekend. This schedule prevented me from getting to Nia classes. The commute to the tutoring gig were making my neck and lower back--really, my whole spine--stiff and sore. I decided to drop in on an afternoon yoga class.

Ninety minutes later, I emerged into the summer sunlight refreshed and renewed. I felt like both body and mind had gotten a luxurious massage. It was as if the great big sky inside me had opened up again.

Maybe it was a fluke, but I decided to return to the same class the next week...and the next. For three weeks now I've been delving back into yogic practice, even pushing aside the coffee table to practice asana in my little living room.

I've realized that yoga was never the problem. The problem was the particular yoga class I had been attending two years ago--and its teacher. Because I liked the teacher personally, I did not make the connection that her teaching style was not a match for me.

I'd felt cluttered and crowded in her studio, which was her former dining room. I felt crowded by all the bodies and personalities crammed in that space. I felt crowded by the sort of celebrity status this teacher had among her loyal follower-students, and by her overwhelming presence in her studio-cum-home. I felt irritated by the inconvenience of parking in the teacher's driveway, where I was always blocked in after class by the students who had arrived to class 10 minutes late and would leave 10 minutes late.

There were other inconveniences. There was no drop-in option; one must commit to eight weeks of class at a particular day and time. Miss a class? The teacher would email to ask if all is well and offer a make-up session. It was too much. There was no physical or mental space.

But all of this crowding is mere inconvenience. The real problem was the cluttered nature of the yogic practice there. This teacher is rather a New Ager. She loved reciting affirmations at us as we relaxed into the postures. We visualized clouds of light. She talked about mystical things, like how advanced yogis can make themselves invisible. I just wanted to look into my mind. I didn't want any New Age fanfare.

There was a certain clutter, or disorder, in the way she structured the physical practice, as well. We did wildly different things from one week to the next. She would throw Kundalini practices into class--and, although I tried to be open-minded, I hated them. They made me feel hot and dizzy.

After about a year and a half with this teacher, I could tell that I was not growing; that, in fact, the practice was somehow eroding my energy. I didn't yet know why, although I could list the inconveniences surrounding parking and overly-chatty classmates.

It's my new yoga class that has helped me see the difference. Rather than pouring frothy affirmations into our minds, the teacher asks us to watch our minds, clear them out, find relaxed resolve. Although the room is full, physically crowded, it does not feel at all crowded. This teacher allows us the physical and mental space to expand, to ground and to open. It is an excellent yoga class and I am grateful to have found it.


Narya said...

Oh my yes. I finally limited my yoga-class-attending (back when I used to do that sort of thing) to a very few teachers, for very similar reasons.

kStyle said...

It's probably just coincidence, but historically I've had much better luck with male yoga teachers than female ones.

Ann Forstie said...

Yay! Glad you found something that works for you.

I'm interested in the way you went from "This entire practice isn't for me" to "This particular instructor isn't for me" -- or, more explicitly, the way you went from "It's just me" to "Well, no, it's the instructor." I wonder how often we jump more quickly to attributing problems to our own selves when really it's a problem with our environment.

For example, I've been noticing lately that the more organized I get, the more inclined I am to stay organized. So maybe it's not that I'm lazy; maybe it's that the disorder was objectively overwhelming.

kStyle said...

Interesting point, Ann! It seems most people, perhaps, do the opposite--blaming problems on external sources first, not seeing how they create their own problems. Yet you and I--at least in these instances--look to ourselves first. Sometimes it's what's going on in the environment, though.

I'm glad you are enjoying your new organizational systems!

kStyle said...

PS But, in a sense, it still comes back to me...My former instructor was not objectively bad; it's (primarily) that her style of teaching was not a match for me.

Ann Forstie said...

Good point.

In any case, I like the idea of trying to figure out why, exactly, the things that aren't working for me aren't working for me. So thanks for that!