Yoga Practice

Week 3 of Yoga Teacher Training: Observing class

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In this third week of yoga teacher training, we’ve been observing classes in addition to practicing so we could see real bodies move and breathe. This has been quite a fascinating experience for me so far. I’ve watched plenty of yoga videos, but it’s definitely not the same. Ones where there are different “students” demonstrating modifications feel very produced and edited. I guess no one wants to watch an instructional yoga video where the beginner level person in the back is sweating profusely and falling all over themselves. (By the way, although I don’t consider myself a beginner, I am *still* sweating profusely and falling over myself. Self-acceptance goes a long way.)

Observing class lets me get out of my own head and my own body. I’m witnessing other people’s journeys and their transformations. Sometimes, there are big a-ha’s, where I can almost see a figurative lightbulb go off in someone’s head with a small reminder from the teacher. More often, there are little a-ha’s and plenty of tinkering, fidgeting and micro-adjustments.

I remember when I first began practicing yoga and holding some of my teachers up on a pedestal for their physical feats. They made every posture look easy. They made holding up their body weight seem as light as a feather. They twisted and bound their hands behind them like every limb was double-jointed. Maybe they taught to their own strengths. Maybe they couldn’t bind 10 years ago, and somewhere around year 4, their shoulders opened up. It’s hard to see the long game when you’re on Day 5 and others are on Day 4,005.

When I see yoga teachers attending a class as students, they still struggle like everybody else. They wobble. They have to be reminded about leveling the hips. They stop breathing when something is hard. They forget their right foot from their left. BECAUSE THEY’RE HUMAN. How silly was I to expect to see a different practice? I mean honestly, will my practice change once I become yoga teacher certified? Of course not. We’re all students. We are all learning. And teachers need teachers too. A doctor still goes to another doctor for preventive care and medical treatment, right?

Going into the fourth week of training, I think I’ll pay special attention to differences between how men’s bodies move versus women’s bodies. For years, my usual ashtanga class was mostly men, and those men had much more advanced practices than I did. I’ve “observed” a lot of men’s bodies (man, that feels dirty to type out), and now I get to see a bigger range of practitioners in these flow classes (men and women).

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