A ShiftPosted: January 13, 2012
Sometimes you think you know how to do something, but you don’t quite. Or you know it in your head, but not in practice. Or for whatever reason — fear, avoidance, the fact that you’re not completely receptive to it — it’s just not available to you.
A few months ago my yoga teacher Emma was having us do vasisthasana (side plank). You’re balanced on one arm. If your arm stays too rigid and your shoulder doesn’t come back, you’ll take too much of the weight on your arm, and it’s not going to work. What you must do instead is draw your shoulder blades onto your back and pull the heads of your arm bones back. What actually happens, I realized, is that your entire arm sinks back when you draw your shoulder blade back. Your back helps support some of your weight. And it feels much nicer than a rigid, hyperextended arm.
This was something I’d been hearing about and learning about for years. And doing for years. But something clicked, and I got it, really *got* it, for the first time.
Today we were doing backbends, and my teacher Phil had me do an assisted demo. I’m not always the biggest fan of backbends. He kept telling me to straighten my legs more. It sounded strange and backward to me when I was upside down, but it felt different from any other time I’ve tried to do urdhva dhanurasana. When I started to actually do what he’d said, and my chest moved forward over my hands, I realized that it felt a *lot* better on both my lower and upper back than whatever I’d been doing before, and it made straightening my arms a heck of a lot easier. We did a few more backbends, and in the last one, I got myself all the way up, with my arms straight. It was the best one I’ve ever done.
That’s often the way things come to us — you think you know, you thought you knew, you kind of got it but it just wasn’t really working, and then one day — things fall into place. A shift happens, and you can see everything more clearly. You realize that all the times you’ve been frustrated because you couldn’t truly understand something were just markers, pit stops along your path to understanding — to really getting it. You got it today because of all the work you’ve been putting into it, all the intention you’ve been sending toward it. And that makes it that much more satisfying when something does come clear.
My yoga teachers are excellent at patiently guiding me toward these realizations instead of pushing me into them or answering questions I haven’t yet asked. They move along with me toward the poses that challenge me. They don’t let me give up or remotely agree with me when I say I *can’t* do something. That’s why I love them and why I go to their classes. They are great at what they do.
This is just one of the lessons they’ve taught me that I hope I can pass along to my own students when I’m a teacher.