Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why, indeed

I had a great conversation with Jane Austin last nite. She is a prenatal yoga teacher and childbirth educator at YogaTree in San Francisco, and I was interviewing her for the teaching for pregnancy series I'm writing for My Yoga Mentor. What a hoot; if you are in the area and can either take a class or do a teacher training with her, I recommend it. She was funny, smart, earthy and would be such a comfort as a teacher or midwife (past occupation).

I was asking her about how to discouraging pregnant students from overdoing it and how to assure them that work was happening, even if muscles weren't screaming and sweat wasn't pouring. She says she asks students to consider why they need to have their yoga practice feel hard to be challenging. What is it about approaching yoga that way that puffs up the ego, while a quiet, focused practice feels wimpy or a cop-out.

The more I got to thinking about that, the more it seemed appropriate to ask about anyone's practice. Or anyone's approach to life, for that matter. Why does it need to be hard and crazy and jam-packed to seem like it "counts." Why can't it be fun or simple or enjoyable? Why can't the to-do list be short enough to actually finish? I know I'm guilty of such thoughts with myself, even though I find it so frustrating when students think nothing is happening in an "easy" class.

Is it the Puritan heritage of this country? Work hard for salvation? Idle hands are the devil's tools? A clear mind is scary? Whatever it is, I think just taking a moment to ask Why of the urge to add more to an over-scheduled plate is a good idea. Stop the ego dead in its tracks and give yourself a chance to breathe. I'll bet nothing bad will happen. I'll bet it will actually be kind of nice.

Thanks, Jane!


jensmith98 said...

Great post! I think you are right, part of it is a cultural perspective. I try to remind my students that we don't have to beat ourselves up in yoga and we're not in the yoga Olympics. But I know it took me a long time to reach this realization in my own practice.

Kristin said...

Ohhh, that is such a good thought! I see this all the time, that a practice (especially the ashtanga or vinyasa styles) is measured by the amount you sweat.
But in reality, it should be measured by what you can't see - the bandhas, the breath and the "cessation of the fluxuation of the mind". But no, ya'gotta sweat.

Recently, at a workshop with David Swenson, he mention to think like a cat - to move with energy when necessary and be fluid and relaxed the rest of the time. And David Williams strongly believes that if you enjoy what you are doing today, the more likely you will do it tomorrow, so take the time to make your yoga practice enjoyable.

That little ego sure makes a huge difference in how we approach things, doesn't it?

Great post!

Linda (Sama) said...

nice! I've written about that attitude so many times on my blog. I always say that I can tell how someone lives their life by the way they practice yoga.

Yoga Mama said...

I read your article in My Yoga Mentor a while ago (great job) and have been meaning to blog about it - actually posted it last night and just saw your reference today. Funny coincidence!

I liked your angle on less is more; I've been catching myself freaking out about everything that needs to be done lately with our baby's due date quickly approaching. (Hence why I'm up at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday!). Thanks for the reminder - just what I needed.

Meg said...

I know I have a hard time not comparing myself to other people in the class, especially when I started out, they all seemed so flexible and advanced. I've gotten a bit better about just focusing on my own practice, but I still feel like I am being lazy by taking a gentle or restorative instead of a "hard" class. Guess I've got some more work to do in that area!

Marie said...

I was thinking about your observations today as I enjoyed a yoga class that was very quiet and calm, but nonetheless had its challenging moments.

I love the way the teacher teaches us to be soft and not struggle.