For some reason I woke up really early this morning and could not get back to sleep. Rather than fight it I just decided to go ahead and get up, do a little work and then make my way to Mysore practice.
The Immersion was a great success in my book. We covered a lot of ground- we really did. And that was just the first 12 hours. Yesterday I gave a lecture about a general overview of Tantric Philosophy and we made a foray into Anusara Yoga Philosophy from there focusing on the Six Attributes of the Absolute. Always talking about non dual philosophy, or talking about The Absolute is a problem because we are doing it from a perspective of dualism, using the relative means of language. So, inherent in any discussion is the guarantee that the words we use will fall short of the concept and certainly of the experience. Be that as it may, I think we laid a decent ground work for further contemplation.
We did a pretty long and involved asana class. Like I have been saying, in the initial stages of the Immersion, asana is definitely more of a class than a practice. On the first night I told everyone that if they would be antsy without a sweaty-flow-based-lose-yourself-in-the-breath-and-music kind of practice, then to come to class before the Immersion because we wouldn't be doing asana that way during the weekend. What is fantastic about our schedule and the schedule at Breath and Body is on both Saturday and Sunday mornings there is a class right before we start and on Sunday there is a class right when we get done so this is easily accomplished.
I love sweaty-flow-based-lose-yourself-in-the-breath-and-music kinds of practices. I really do. They are awesome. And I think I teach a pretty good version of that kind of class and practice. And I am reasonably clear that you cannot trouble-shoot asana, work therapeutically and really get an intellectual understanding of what is going on with that kind of approach. They are for practice and not for study, so to speak. At least in general. Not criticizing at all. I just think it plugs us into a different kind of intelligence and experience, that is all.
So I figure, given that I teach 9 public classes a week right now in Austin, most of which are pretty practice-based, the Immersion time is really for unpacking the technique, not for working out. Later in the Immersion Series, once the group has the technique and understanding down, we will move more and more away from start and stop, "come look" approach.
And from what I could tell the group was super receptive to the information and the technique and each of the demonstrations and partner exercises bore so much fruit. I could see immediate improvement in the form and small lights going off and so that was really cool.
As I was thinking about the day on my way home I got to thinking about my perspective as a teacher. When I look at someone who is "not doing the pose" or is consistently practicing a modification or a misalignment, my first thought is not that they cannot do the pose. My first thought is that they do not know how to do the pose. It is not, for instance, in my mind, that they do not know that trikonasana has straight legs, I just figure that they do not know how to get their own legs straight in the pose.
So I am the kind of teacher who first tries to educate her students in the how of the pose. Okay, actually, I teach the what of the pose- "Hey everybody, this pose has straight legs- that is what the pose looks like. Here is the vision." Then I am interested in teaching the how of the pose. "And this is how you get your legs straight with the UPA's." Then, if the what and the first level of how doesn't work, I dive into modifications, props and so forth- "Oh, your hamstrings are super tight, your balance needs work, you are pregnant, overweight, elderly, scared, or whatever your special situation is... well work like this and you will be working toward the pose in a skillful aligned manner..."
And hopefully, if I am doing my job well, the whole discussion of what and how exists in the context of the greater question of "Why?" Why work hard, why study the forms, why expand our ability and capacity? Well, because that process can be deeply meaningful and dedicated to self-inquiry, self-study, self-observation and our longing for the most profound kind of self-knowledge. And when we deepen those aspects of our practice and experience we can learn skillful ways to express ourselves more fully.
Many people confuse my approach with being insensitive, with being "anti-prop" or "anti- modifications" and so forth. Really, I have gotten these kinds of comments a lot over the years. And admittedly I am not exactly a gentle teacher. But to me these poses are like rooms with hidden locks and keys and not one of them came naturally for me and very few of them did I figure out alone. My teachers got in my personal world and showed me where the keys were hidden, where the locks were located and gave me instructions for how to use the keys in the different locks. And I love teachers who do that- who give me instructions about how to unlock a pose or an aspect of a pose and send me from a class or a workshop with a set of instructions to work with at home.
So that is my perspective. I generally assume that we are capable of so much more than we think. And I generally assume that people in my class want to expand their capacity and grow at the boundary as opposed to stay the safety zone of comfort. And the truth is that students who do not want to do that do not spend much time around me in my yoga classes. Usually, once is enough for them!
But I digress. More could certainly be said but it is time to go unlock some poses. Mysore with Juan.
Have a great day.