Part 2) Trust in a ‘Guru’ to guide you.
I’m an introvert. It’s very easy for me to sit behind this computer & put pen to paper (so to speak), because I can hide from the response, or lack there of, to anything I write down. There is less fear to how what I am saying might be received and if no one reads it, well I’m enjoying it, so that doesn’t worry me either.
So if I had realised I could have gone onto You Tube or any well known Yogi’s own website and found some guided yoga to enjoy, then I likely would have grabbed it with both hands & flailed around in my living room not having a scooby what I was doing.
But I guess that’s the reason to go to a class … the not having a clue part, because, and I do struggle with this, that whilst there is no right or wrong way to do Yoga, well there is. The right way being to actually feel the benefits of it & the wrong way being – to really hurt yourself, I mean you used to do handstands all the time right, so why not just hop up right now? Cue doing some kind of damage, if not to yourself, then likely something you hold some value to that you killed in the wake of your crashing back down to the ground in a very undignified heap.
Fun fact: I sprained my wrist 7 times when I was younger, the first time doing a cartwheel & to this day they still scare me!
So, having not known the stay at home option, off I went in search of classes.
If I could only give one tip on Yoga, to anyone deciding whether to take their first step onto the mat, or back on it – it would be this: find a real life teacher you enjoy. There’s no prescription for that, perhaps you like structure and knowing what’s going to come next, perhaps you just like to move or sit in silence, perhaps you like the option of chanting & spiritual readings. Just try a few – I can pretty much guarantee they will really vary & how you feel, in my experience comes a lot from the teacher.
Two simple reasons why I personally think this is the number one mantra:
Firstly: For my mind to be present in the practice.
This is a daily struggle for me. I really thought I could multi task until someone pointed out I was just switching between two tasks & independently giving them my full attention (I would beg to differ when I am both peeing & texting!) but nonetheless , for however long, it is just switching & not truly multitasking.
If I can complete X tasks in Y time I am totally up for it. What can I dash & do when boiling the kettle? Whilst I wait in line at a checkout I will check my e-mails, whilst I am in a meeting that I really think I am neither giving to or gaining from – I can do all sorts of mental meanderings (of course none directed at what I could do to my boss).
So being present is the opposite of my natural state – Yoga is the antidote! & there is something about doing it at home sometimes, seeing the dust under the cabinet, or that out of place cushion on the couch (my OCD is a real havoc player for mindfulness!). But when I am in a class, I’ve prepared for this brain downtime, I’ve given myself permission to switch off from everything that exists outside. A mental close down of my on board computer ensues, welcome; Bliss.
Secondly: So my body understands what the hell it’s meant to be doing.
In Yoga speak this is called ‘adjusting’ where the teacher verbally or physically cues you to move.
In my teacher training we have talked about why we might adjust & my teacher said it is not because the person is doing anything wrong but to help show them how they might enjoy it more, or help show their body the way if they can’t get into a pose, as our bodies rely a lot on muscle memory. I like this. Even though every time we do Mysore & she say’s ‘What are you doing’ in her authoritative tone & I know she’s caught me making it up – because I am meant to be following & doing a certain set of postures in a certain way.
Every time I get adjusted, I learn something. Whether it’s to move my feet to allow my hips to move, or to try a variation, someone else guiding my body in a way I would have never thought to do myself or before, always feels better & it imprints on my memory, muscle & brain so much deeper for next time.
I wouldn’t get that from You Tube or my TV, or even a mirror (which my teacher has encouraged me not to use – one for another day). They can’t tell me that my hamstrings are tight (& more importantly what to do about it), they can’t lie on me in a seated forward fold and ease my body that extra cm into feeling the full pose and they certainly can’t encourage me in the same way, be it either with a carrot or a very light, light, light , light, more feather esq. stick. The warmth that comes from another human being, moving you into a new space for your body that you just can’t explore on your own, makes me smile. Every time.
I’d also, whilst I’ve got you, like to bring it back to something else you might have heard of in the Yogic space: Guru’s. & demystify them a little in relation to what I’ve just said.
I’d heard the word Guru before coming to Yoga, but through my YTT they seem to pop up in abundance, lots of reading about Guru’s, people who follow a guru, the need to have a guru, trusting without question in a guru.
I’d always thought of Guru as a higher being, someone of worship-worthy ness … God like. But the literal Sanskrit meaning is teacher & in Indian tradition goes further to describe them as an ‘imparter of knowledge’.
My teacher, & I guess therefore in some ways my Guru (though I know she would wince if I used that term) has been practicing many years & I do put my absolute trust in in her. Yet as a teacher, with all the time she has had to build knowledge, with all the experience she has gained … she welcomes us & our thoughts with the same value as her own. We may not always be 100% right (or on topic; certainly that conversation about liking wandering around the house naked was not on topic), but she never dismisses our thoughts & would never say we were wrong. My favourite phrase she say’s is ‘Hmm, I never thought about it like that’ & she smiles.
I guess, in this respect we all have the responsibility to be the imparters of knowledge? However big or small. A good guru/teacher/‘Smartie’ to me, is someone who is always a student too & I think that maybe that is what I like most about my teacher.
I hope, that whatever the rest of the journey my YTT takes me on, whatever path it leads me to next, if I do become a teacher, may I also, always be a student 🙏🏻
(The Pic above is me being adjusted by my teacher … for show on how to adjust … I’ll come back to how that really makes me rabbit in a headlights as an introvert!!)