June 14, 2012 § 3 Comments
Practicing yoga in a Mysore setting can be rather unnerving, especially when you’re starting out in a new community, with a new teacher. All patterns of your old practice are up for realignment and redesign, which, theoretically, is always a good thing. The reality, however, doesn’t go down as smoothly.
I struggled with this change myself when I decided to switch yoga studios over a year ago. My first Ashtanga teacher, who I love dearly, left after my first year of practice to take up a more prestigious position halfway across the world, and his replacement just wasn’t cutting it for me. I think part of it had to do with the fact that the teaching gig just fell on her lap, simply because she was the most advanced student in class. But, as we all know, flexibility and advancement in asana does not a good yoga teacher make. You have to want to teach.
Anyway, starting afresh at the new studio was a little unsettling, as it always is when you’re the new kid in the class. I was intimidated by the vibrant and close-knit community, established through years of communal practice, and the first few weeks saw me finishing up and leaving straight after class instead of hanging around for a post-practice chai session. Because hanging around to chat wasn’t how we did it at my old shala.
And then there was the process of adapting to the teaching itself. Ms. A is an introvert compared to my previous teacher, and her adjustments – when given – were so gentle it made me more nervous than anything else. What is she trying to tell me? Am I too straight, not straight enough, activating the right muscles? And so on. The energy in the room is also a lot more relaxed. People chat and laugh freely, and are left to do whatever variation of the practice that they feel they need that day. I wasn’t used to this freedom and independence, and instead spent a good chunk of the past year wondering if my practice was “suffering” because I felt like I wasn’t getting the “same” quality of attention compared to before. As measured by the number of adjustments received and the intensity of each of them.
I decided to stick it out – even when the previous shala brought in a newly-authorized teacher to cover – and now, just over a year in, I can finally see the value of practicing with a teacher that prioritizes intuition over rules, gentleness over sheer strength. It’s changed my attitude towards the practice. Where I once would have felt guilty for not doing vinyasas between sides, or not doing the full practice everyday or not pushing myself to my edge in every. single. pose. no matter what, in its place is a commitment to staying open and accepting of where my body is at every morning. It’s taught me to be more intuitive about how the practice works on me, and to be smart too, about when to push and how much to push. In short, it’s ahimsa 101, from the ground up.