Clearly, you have received helpful tips to date. Yet, can you think of examples where you were guided to apply tips and beliefs to your practice which did not make it easier? Although suspicious, you thought the teacher knew best and you did what they recommended. Only to find that your knees or back remained tense in your daily life. Or maybe, as I heard new teachers say, they developed sciatica from training and teaching.
When we give tips to students, it can be very helpful, or it can create trouble. Why?
- They do not necessarily apply what they were told, the way it was meant (mainly due to their personal habits).
- Or, it helps them with one aspect of their challenge, but it doesn’t change their overall approach to movement. As a result, they are still creating trouble for themselves in other ways. And still looking for tips to solve these challenges.
Teachers have a whole repertoire of tips & beliefs meant to help with yoga poses. And they are always looking for more. Some are helpful, and some are actually dangerous. Here are a couple examples:
- Do not let your knees go past your toes. In some poses, it is sound advice to save your knees while in other poses it actually kills your knee joints.
- Lengthen your back. When you hear it as “allow your back to lengthen”, it is fine. When you arch your back, thinking you are lengthening it, you are actually stressing your spine and your whole body. And since you do it out of habit, you may not even be aware you are doing it.
So, tips and beliefs around movements can create more trouble than they are worth even though they come from well-meaning teachers who heard it from their own well-meaning teachers.
The truth is that, although fitness was meant to help you be fit, it has evolved into a mixed bag. It helps you in some ways. You see some good results, so you stick with it. Yet, you can also damage your body in the process if you do not have a bigger picture. If you do not have an approach to use your body as the integrated whole that it is. And most of the time, you do not realize this. You do not necessarily connect the dots when an injury happens, especially if it is off the mat.
Listening to your body is definitely a first good step to prevent hurting yourself. However, until you know if you are catering to the preferences of your body habits or listening to the guidance of your whole-body intelligence, you may be reinforcing daily habits that are not serving you.
There is a deeper way to listen to your body that bypasses both your conscious and unconscious habits. When you learn how to do that, you are truly listening to the guidance of your whole-body intelligence. It takes you effortlessly into your best posture, your best expression of any pose or your most efficient movement, both on or off the mat.
With this deeper way to listen, you need a very minimal number of tips for your yoga practice. The more you know how to connect and listen to your whole-body intelligence, the less you feel you need loads of tips whether you practice or teach yoga. As a teacher, you can teach this amazing skill to your students who then, can let their own whole-body intelligence guide them.
Interested in learning this skill? Email me and we’ll talk. I’ll tell you what your options are after I ask you a few questions to assess where you are at right now. Remember that it is never what you do that you regret, but what you did not do when you had the chance!
Cecile Raynor has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years out of which came her Body Intelligence Activation Process™ (B.I.A. Process) to assist yogis in enhancing their practice towards best performance with optimal safety. She is also a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist and a Reiki Practitioner. Faculty at Akasha Yoga Teacher Training, she runs a 12 months Mastermind for Yoga Teachers with a Vision, and a 90 Day Live Online Program for trainees, new teachers and committed yoga practitioners interested in using their body more efficiently on and off the mat in a way not taught in regular training courses. She is also the author of a June 2018 publication called THE WISE WAY TO YOGA which is available on Amazon or from Cecile if you are local to Boston!