I’ve never had guru syndrome. I’ve never pretended to have all the answers about someone else’s asana practice. Heck, I don’t even have all the answers about my own. But today I was reminded yet again how much unwarranted faith we put in our yoga teachers. Someone asked me what things (aka poses) would be bad for her body. I wanted to LOL, but didn’t want to downplay the earnestness of her question. I didn’t exactly answer her, mostly because I couldn’t even begin to. I don’t inhabit her body. But I did go into some of what I will share with you here.
Now, if you know me at all then you know, I am not a proponent of “evil yoga poses,” or poses that should be diametrically omitted from practice. Philosophically, I believe there are no bad/dangerous poses, only bodies who aren’t ready for them. You see, the body is complex set of muscles, bones, and tissues which has a history of patterns of use and maybe some injuries. Every ‘body’ is different in every pose. Yes, the shape may have a general look and feel, but no two people are the same. These differences are why it’s of the utmost importance for practitioners take charge of their practice and recognize their own strengths and limitations. Luckily, we will learn these things if we continue to practice on a regular basis.
Ideally, we begin our practice at an appropriate beginning level. We learn the basic shapes, we practice some breathing, we start to recognize sensations, and how to inhabit our bodies. As our practice progresses, we start to have preferences for certain poses, and aversions for others. Then we learn how aversions/preferences can cause suffering, because we are also learning yoga philosophy along the way. And with other, non-asana aspects of yoga, we’ll naturally start to notice the inner workings of the mind.
Eventually, we may even start to get curious about why certain poses are easier or more difficult for us. We may discover it’s actually body proportions, tightness in certain areas, or weaknesses we can address.
This space of curiosity is where I hope all students land, and stay for a good long while. Because it is in this space where the magic happens *cues Disney music*. Kidding, there’s no magic, only good old-fashioned work. But curiosity is the place where we begin to really pay attention to what we are experiencing. We begin to understand the language of our own bodies, and we become more comfortable using props, taking variations, and/or opting out of certain poses. We pay attention on purpose.
Stay in this space every time you are on your mat. Maybe you can be in this space off the mat, too. Imagine staying present all the time? It might be a great way to spend a life. But for now, please stop putting all your personal safety in the hands of someone else. No yoga teacher will ever know you better than you know yourself. I don’t care what they say. Trust yourself, listen to your intuition, tell the teacher “no, that’s not for me.” Because you’re the one who will be waking up at night and popping the Advil when you push too hard, not your yoga teacher.