Can I Offer You a Prop?
I openly admit that I was, at one point, a Yoga Douchebag.
I only wore Lululemon and Athleta. Prana sometimes.
I had the fancy Prana mat, and the matching towel, with the coordinating mat bag.
I went to as many Yoga festivals as I could.
In my regular classes, I would be the student that makes my skin crawl: going into versions that were NOT was was cued, because, I could do these really fancy uplevels and I had to perform them every time.
I had ‘MY’ spot.
I never took the cue or the offer of backing out a bit. I wasn’t a pussy.
I was practicing 5-6 days a week. Some days, multiple classes.
I was an asshole of a yogi. To the teachers who I was practicing with: I apologize for being a yoga douchebag. I am embarrassed that I was showing up at all of your classes to perform. But know this: I did hear you. I may not have put what you were offering into practice at the time, but I heard you. And now, as I’ve come to a different season of my practice, I remember cues that you used or cues that you offered to me. So, thank you.
I don’t necessarily remember a moment that snapped me out of my arm balance obsessed world, but I do have times that stand out as pivotal.
The first was at Forrest Foundation Teacher Training. At the time of going, I had probably only practiced Forrest about 20 or less times. I was now surrounded by people who had only EVER practiced Forrest. That had been practicing for 20 years. That were already accomplished teachers in their modality.
I couldn’t even do Uddiyana.
Inversions on the wall were pretty new, still sketchy.
There was NO performing for me there. All out survival was more like it. I had some serious catching up to do, and I realized everything that I didn’t know how to do, was rooted in a foundational pillar that I completely blew past on my way to Fallen Angel. I didn’t have a strong belly. I did everything with my jaw, neck ,and shoulder.
Dolphin was the the most excruciating, painful, hateful posture I had ever known.
I got humble real fast there, and started paying attention. I still wanted to prove that I was good though, so I still didn’t find the stability and the sweetness of postures.
I remember the first time I actually understood what it means to turn on your thighs in low lunge. It was after my Foundation training, in a workshop. I had heard the cue a million times, pretended I was, but I didn’t know for sure. Then, all of a sudden, my leg was TURNED ON! It felt like there was light coming out of my right thigh while in lunge grabbing ankle. All of a sudden: my neck was soft. I could actually breathe, I felt a huge space opening in my shoulder and chest. Holy Fuck. Something so foundational as using the appropriate muscles in a pose I have done so many fucking times at this point in my practice, finally made sense. It took me a long time to hear the cue. It was always there, I just wasn’t listening, or brushing it off as I am doing that.
But now, looking back, I understand every cue and assist I was ever given. I was always ‘overworking’ my practice. Performing for a win. A competition with myself. I must have looked all wobbly, stiff, stressed, and ridiculous to be honest.
My practice has become the absolute strongest and most stable that it has ever been when I started approaching every posture with foundations, and curiosity. See what my body offers in that moment, and go from there. Rather than go for the gold from the second the pose is cued, then beat myself up when I couldn’t do it.
When I went to Advanced Teacher Training, I worked the entire training as having a neck & jaw injury that took me to very modified versions of postures. Nothing fancy.
I did feel for the first time there how it felt to work without my neck and jaw. It took me until Advanced teacher Training to figure that out.
In that training, I actually did the craziest pose that I have ever done. I will never forget Lotus crow>Lotus Handstand>Lotus Crow. Without expectation. I didn’t really plan on doing it, but it was just, there (as well as Indira and Michelle-you ladies are engraved in that moment). It took me finding my softest practice to find my most advanced.
Here is what I offer you my nuggets: check your fucking ego. You do need to modify. You do need props. You don’t have it. You’re going to hurt yourself, and potentially cut your yoga practice out due to injury. Or frustration because you missed the point. I wish someone had pulled me aside and held the asshole douchebag mirror up to me. But I did figure it out eventually. And now, I’m sad that that I rushed through the time of actually being a curious beginner. I wish I did take the time to work, rather than race to check poses that I could do off my list. In all realty, my practice would have technically advanced mush sooner if I had just calmed my tits.
When any student tells me that they don’t have a need to do a foundational or Level 1 class, I see them as a true beginner in their own practice. When you get to the place of snuggling into postures with curiosity and respect, the basics are all you ever need. When you can, without falter, practice your entire practice with full deep ujjayi breath, let me know.
Along this line: PROPS ARE NOT BEGINNER/LESS THAN/WEAK/WHATEVER THE FUCK EXCUSE you give me.
Props help to find the posture, offer stability, without the drama of struggle. Use props.
When there is struggle, more harm than good is actually being done: while in struggle, breath is shallow, little awareness in the body, and the shallow breath triggers fight/flight/freeze, promoting the production of adrenaline. A BIG part of a strong practice is to calm the body to slow down the production of adrenaline. That’s why yoga feels really good: the deep breath actually makes your body physically calmer.
Use the damn props.
If you think you don’t ‘need’ props, you’re cheating yourself out of such deeper expressions of postures.
If I offer you a prop, take the gift I’m offering you.
This is what I want you to consider for your practice: work with stability rather than struggle. Ask yourself if you feel stable. Can you press your hands down or ground through the feet? Can you relax your neck. Will you topple over with the slightest change? Can you breathe deeply, with pleasure? Can you articulate the sensations that you are experiencing? Stability offers this, while struggle steals all that goodness away. Are you ‘practicing’ or are you ’performing’?
Maybe use ‘Deep consistent Ujjayi and a relaxed neck the entire practice until Savasana’ as an apex or intention. It’s actually much harder than you think. But, that is the advanced practice: no struggle.
I’m usually not very good at taking compliments, but there is a compliment that I often get around my practice: I move very gracefully, and I make it look easy.
I take that complement! I’ve worked to learn the nuances of my body and how postures feel in my body. I’ve learned how to move with patience and ease. It’s not easy. But, it’s also not a struggle or fight.
STEP OUT OF STRUGGLE FRIENDS.
Start in your practice, then maybe carry it over to something else.
To me, when someone says a practice was too easy or too beginner, I know they are disengaged. They missed it, and they’re missing the point in general. I can’t speak for all teachers, but I can say with absolute confidence: if you think any class of mine is ever easy, you’re tip toeing in douche land. Maybe you weren’t offered the opportunity to perform or impress me with your acrobatics. Maybe breathing into a specific area of your body is just not fancy enough for you. That’s not on me, that’s you my friend. I offer an intelligent story of a sequence, with actual learning opportunities. It’s up to you to take them.
Here is what I leave you to consider:
I changed from being an asshole. If you are an asshole at yoga, you can still step out of the struggle.
Take the modification.
Use the prop.
Take the cue.
Stop performing, start stabilizing.
See ya in class. You’ll need a roll, blanket, 2 blocks,and a strap.