Posted by: chibotaichi | August 10, 2013

Learning to Listen is the Lesson…

Today I subbed a yoga class that I had also subbed last week. One of the attendees asked me to focus on hips, and I told her that we would spend some time with that in our warm-up, which we did, but to be completely honest, we didn’t do anything out of the ordinary considering I was leading the practice.

Afterward she approached me and raved about how it was such a great class, which was wonderful to hear, but also made me chuckle inside.

You see, I suspect that her own agenda of working to open and stretch the hips, more so than anything I put into the warm-up and sequences, is what got the results…and this I believe to be a general Truth about yoga practice.

Intention is so crucial.

I’ve heard it from many teachers and students alike that the reason classes are popular is because People don’t want to think, don’t want to be responsible for decisions, if only for an hour…which I can respect, and definitely understand (ESPECIALLY after experiencing a class from the teacher-side of the coin).

But to me, that is a very troubling attitude. A desire to be free from having to make choices for an hour is fine, but if we are practicing “tuning-out” how do we expect to ever “tune-in”?

I frequently spend at least five minutes of each class with no specific instruction or guidance other than to listen to the body and to respond to what it is saying. The blank stares I see are so disheartening. In a moment of total Freedom, too many people are struck by Existential Nausea.


I realize that for newer students this can in fact be a paralyzing situation. Expecting to be told what to do, they are set free…or having been guided along for nearly an hour, suddenly they are abandoned. Just doin’ my perceived Duty. You’re welcome.

It’s something of a tough-love approach in an arena that is infamous for “warm-fuzzies” and flowery positive affirmation.

The silver-lining hiding in this shock-inducing method is that with just a little practice and awareness, anyone is more than capable of Knowing precisely what they need. Learning to Listen is the Lesson.

If you are attuned to your body, you can be in any class and find what you need. I have a sneaking suspicion that the previously mentioned yogi’s experience in class had more to do with her own observation before class began that her hips needed some TLC, than anything I put into the work we did.

It may seem careless or lazy to some, to put the “burden” of Choice on students during a class, but Choice is the most important action we ever make.

Some people will be averse to the lesson, but answering its call puts into practice a principle I believe to be vitally important on the mat, and off the mat as well.


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