I’ve been teaching lots of beginners this summer – first timers – thanks to Groupon and people’s desire to do yoga on the beach. One thing I’m seeing is the struggle these folks have with yoga. It looks like a confusion on their faces, sometimes it looks like anger. Sometimes, sadness. This surprises me, as a relatively new YI.
Unlike many other forms of physical practice, yoga is unique in that one’s body is asked to move in many, many different ways that it’s often not accustomed to. Moves that now are old-hat for an aging yogi like myself – step your left foot forward, turn your right heel to the mat, things like that – are very new to these folks. I once asked a new yogi if he could move his left foot back a few inches. He looked at me, looked down at his foot, and nothing happened as he looked back at me, confused that his own body wouldn’t respond.
The looks I’m seeing are manifestation of the internal struggle coming from the disconnect that we’ve sown in our lives between the body, body image (I should be able to do that!) and our minds.
Take running: most folks could manage to run a mile, give or take. Our bodies know the movement of running, we’ve done it before. Or shoot a basketball. It may not look pretty, but we could get the ball in the right direction. These movements are fairly rote, and repetitive, unlike yoga, which can be a mish-mosh of turning, twisting, opening, stepping, movements we’ve never done or haven’t done in years.
During class I often take these people’s looks on myself: am I teaching wrong? too difficult a sequence? maybe I just don’t know what I’m doing? Yet invariably after class these folks give me a hearty “Thank you!” or “That was a great class!” and I come back to the beginner’s mind.
And I hope, for that student, her mind and her body are a little bit closer to reuniting again.