19 December 2005 by Published in: in my life 3 comments

So. You’re still here. Persistent, aren’t we?

For today’s trick, I shall answer a reader question, and tell you all the things I’ve been thinking about yoga.

Lanfaedhe asks:

“Do you ever do yoga to music? I hear some people are keen on that.” at 09:45 on 11/10/2005.

Short answer is yes, often. I must now confess that I rarely do yoga outside structured classes, and I’ve never been to a structured class that didn’t have a musical component. Sometimes I like the music better than others, but mostly I don’t notice it. The primary thing I require in yoga music is that I not already know it outside of a yoga context, and so far that has never happened, as the type of new agey yoga music instructors usually play is not my thing. On the rare times that I do yoga on my own I never do more than a fifteen minute session (ten to twelve minutes of poses, three to five minutes of relaxation) so bothering to select and play music would merely be a way of procrastinating on doing the actual yoga.

My teacher asked me a couple of weeks ago if I had ever considered teaching yoga. This is the second teacher I’ve had to ask me this, and I told her so and also I’d thought about it but not seriously. For one thing, I know it’s a lot harder to do than it looks, and I primarily know this because I’ve been to yoga classes that were poorly taught. My good yoga teachers have always made teaching class look so easy, but I know it’s not. I told her I might wait to be asked a few more times before I decided to look into it seriously.

Part of the reason I’m not seriously considering teaching yoga is because I realize now that the first time I was asked I really had no depth of knowledge and no real expertise. Over the past year I think my yoga has improved drastically: breathing, poses, focus, everything. So I know that even with everything I have mastered now, I have no idea what I don’t yet know though I have an inkling, which leads me to suspect I’m not anywhere near prepared to teach. For example, I just do not have the abdominal strength to do a full boat pose, and am still doing beginner’s chaturanga three out of four sun salutations. On the other hand, I have a really fine, fine down dog. I’m rock solid, my heels are all the way down, it feels light but strong, and I’m finally starting to get down dog being a resting pose. More downsides : I’m not as confident as I’d like in the sanskrit or even the english pose names, I can’t always feel my way to the right balance in the poses, I haven’t mastered more than one or two of the breathing techniques, last weekend I actually hurt myself during practice, and were I really ready to teach, wouldn’t I be dedicated enough to practice on my own? And yet, I do feel a number of ways in which my body is stronger than it was last year, and can occasionally tell when I’m doing a pose just right. A lot of the other things I think make me unprepared to teach depend on me. If I were to practice boat and chaturanga daily, surely over three months I would notice a difference. I could review the sanskrit and english pose names, and even try to teach myself one or two new poses a week (my new instructor is not as good as my old one was at incorporating learning new poses into practice). So yeah, you’re kind of seeing a preview of a resolution for the new year here. I’m going to make myself a better yoga practitioner next year, in some very specific ways where I see a need for improvement.

One of the yoga concepts that I hear encouraged a lot is practice off the mat. Bringing the meditative and relaxed state, the controlled and conscious breathing, and the postures to your life outside the yoga session. It does help to control your breathing when you get tense, or to be conscious of the way you carry you body and these changes are easy to make once you are reasonably familiar with yoga. In fact, repetitive practice can lead you to these things naturally. The other day I was at a party and was told by the host that I’d make an excellent Buddhist. I thought I was being told this because of the way I was handling a bottle of water (to my mind, the only thing I was doing), but it turns out he was referring to the way I was sitting: cross-legged. Anna sitting v. straight There’s nothing particularly yogic about my sitting cross-legged. It’s a holdover habit from childhood for me. What was surprising, however, was when I saw a picture of myself from the party, just moments before or after being told about the Buddhistness of my sitting by the host. I realized (and you can see as well) that not only was I sitting cross-legged, but my posture is so excellent as to look somewhat unnatural. I have no recollection of trying to sit straight, or of consciously holding my shoulders back and down (as they will tell you roughly a billion times per yoga session). All I remember was sitting comfortably. You’ll also note that’s my “listening intently” look, which I don’t think is often photographed.

P.S. I absolutely did NOT write this post because I was needled by one roomtemp. This should be abundantly clear by the six day interval between his comment and my post.


Mon 19th Dec 2005 at 3:53 pm

i think we’re all well aware of why you posted, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Mon 19th Dec 2005 at 6:30 pm

This post was for me! Me, I tell you. No love for you, RT!

Tue 20th Dec 2005 at 10:12 am

I really think being an expert in the physical aspects of yoga isn’t as important as being able to communicate effectively and cultivating a calming and encouraging environment. That’s something I truly believe you could do, and do well.

Maybe that’s because I’m in YTT while being nowhere near being an expert myself, but I think lots of folks would agree with me. As a teacher, you really don’t have an awful lot of time to DO, anyway.

P.S. While I can hang out in full boat (I promise, there are abs under there!), I still have plenty of trouble with liftoff in Wheel. Congratulations!

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