Friday, February 01, 2008

A Woman's Intuition

So, the research continues. I had a really interesting conversation with Judith Lasater on Wednesday for this prenatal yoga series I'm writing. She has always been one of my yoga heroes--physical therapist, religion Ph.D, smart, sensible, good writer--so I was excited about the prospect of our conversation. Unfortunately, I was a bit tongue-tied, as well. I had come up with a few prenatal questions (appropriate poses for which trimester, etc), but, as we talked, I realized they were woefully basic and didn't take advantage of her expertise.

Luckily, Judith didn't let the interview peter out and offered her own approach to the subject. Of the many things we talked about (the yogic tradition and its lack of prenatal tradition, learning to relax, learning to teach relaxing), one of my favorite was acknowledging one's intution and learning to trust it. What a simple but complex idea!

How do you teach some one to trust the work that their body is doing and that it will provide you (your mind?) and the baby with the support it needs when the time comes? How do you teach some one to relinquish control, while allowing her body to do the heavy lifting? Judith talked about letting students acknowledge their feelings while in a pose ("If you like it, stay longer. If it is uncomfortable, come out of it.") and letting them take charge of their own practice. It seems like a subject that needs its whole own article.

I'm also reading Gurmukh's Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful book (I'm hoping to interview her, too), and this is a theme she comes back to over and over again, as well. It reminds me of my discussions about non-attachment (vairagya) for the Ego article this summer. Intriguing, crucial and very, very difficult to teach (and practice!).

So, tell me. How do you teach some one to trust herself and the power her body has. How do you teach yourself? It's definitely something I need to work on. I suppose it there's any practice that teaches you not to cling to things that don't matter, it's motherhood (my floors are mighty gritty these days)!


yogamom, chris obrien said...

Hmmmm, very interesting question, how to teach women to trust in themselves. I've been working on this concept with my daughter who is 15 ever since she was born, so most of what I'll say comes from that experience.

The first time I recall thinking about it was when she was walking across a narrow, somewhat high bridge over a creek. She was about 7 and seemed to be focused and in control, about halfway across, so I watched her and tried not send any anxiety her way.

A friend asked me about my seeming lack of response to her peril and I explained myself by saying that I wanted to teach her to trust her own ability to judge. She was ready for that challenge, even though conventional wisdom would've led most people to believe otherwise. I only knew that she was ready becasuse I'd been closely observing her (that's what mom's do best) and knew that she shared my intrepid, somewhat precocious nature and what I'll call the "billy goat" gene.

Now, in the level I Iyengar class that I observed this week, there was an overweight woman going into ardha chandrasana/half moom pose with two blocks precarioiusly stacked ontop of one another. I decided to get a chair for her, since it would provide more stability. The person teaching the class corrected me after class for providing the chair, saying that she was doing okay with the wobbily blocks when she did the first side. So, here I hadn't been observing closely enough. A very good lesson for me. My thinking was also clouded by my expectation that she might falter, MY expectation, not hers.

I think the way you teach a woman to trust in herself is to observe her strengths and teach to them. This is what I try to do with my teenage daughter, and it's what I try to do when I teach. The concept adds to Judith's suggestion about allowing students to determine when to come out of a pose. The combined concepts of teaching to strengths and teaching students to listen to their own bodies encourages positive self-study, or svadhyaya, one of the basic rules of conduct for a yogini - one of the Niyamas, the "Thou Shalts" of yoga. My teacher talks about this concept all the time, so it's always on my mind.

Now, having said that there are people who think they know what they need and clearly do not. The wise teacher can discriminate and help these people as well, but it may take a different approach though . . .

And of course you've got to have control in a class or it's no good, but if you're trying to teach self awareness . . . you've gotta be aware of your own tendencies to try and control, just like you said, Brenda.

Bottom line for me: Svadhyaya in the teacher can lead to svadhyaya in the student. I'm off to study up for the class I'm teaching this afternoon, one of the highlights of my week!

Melissa Garvey said...

I like the focus on trusting your intuition. So much of what women hear during pregnancy focuses on warnings and what they can't do. Even in yoga classes, it's about how to modify poses rather than how to use poses and breathing techniques to navigate the continuous changes of pregnancy. Keep going with the positive info!

Yoga Mama said...

I can't recall how I stumbled upon your blog, but I'm very impressed with it and wanted to pass on the Excellent Blog award to you (part of receiving this recognition is giving it to 10 other bloggers - it's a game of dominoes!). Check out my post from today to "claim" your award: