Sunday, September 12, 2010

And So We Begin

Last Thursday was the first weekly class meeting for those of us enrolled in Sun and Moon's ten-month yoga teacher training program. Although "orientation" does not take place until September 19, the fact that this was the first time we were together as a group, made it feel like the first day of school. And, by the end of the evening's session it was clear to me that I had just been afforded the opportunity to experience "beginner's mind" once again.

I have practiced yoga for almost twenty years and it has been a long time since I've been in a yoga class where I felt like I had no idea how to do the pose or movement that the teacher was describing, but that was exactly my experience last Thursday. Alex, our instructor, led us through what sounded like a simple movement exercise and I was suddenly losing my balance, unable to figure out how to move my arms and legs to do what she suggested--in short, transported back to the frame of mind that used to be my normal state in yoga class.

The movement instructions were simple: close your eyes, Alex said, then step forward and go down, interpreting "down" in whatever way seems right to you. So, I closed my eyes, stepped one foot forward and crouched, immediately losing my balance and toppling. I tried it again and again, never quite finding a way to do this movement that would allow me to carry it out with grace and poise.

After a minute or so of practice with our eyes closed, Alex instructed us to open our eyes and see how the others in the class had interpreted the instructions. There were over twenty of us in there and I saw about twenty different ways of stepping forward and going down, including several people who were leaning over in a forward fold and placing their hands on the floor.

I was astounded. Why had it never occurred to me that I could use my arms and hands? Why had I restricted my movement to only my legs? Alex instructed us to change our interpretation if watching the other students gave us some ideas about how to make the movement easier, and sure enough, putting my hands on the floor completely solved my balance problem.

The exercise continued, with further interesting observations, but that first one remains with me, and I'm still mulling over the lessons and insights I can draw from the observation that I didn't think about using my upper body when I heard the instruction: "go down."

Instead of being distressed by this turn of events, I was excited. I was learning about my body in ways that were fresh and new, and I remembered a similar sense of excitement when I was a new yoga student. It was good to be a beginner again.

No comments:

Post a Comment