Many of us that regularly go to yoga classes will have heard the instructor telling us not to look at others in the room, but instead to think about our own practice. There is no doubt about the truth of this advice. When making these comments, the instructors are reminding us to practice yoga without the ego and pride that can lead us to try to compete with our neighbours or make us feel inadequate if we are unable to achieve a posture.
Learning from ourselves
Yoga is an individual practice that helps us to focus our mind though the movement and use of our body. It is only by bringing our full awareness and concentration to our own bodies, movement and alignment that we can fully relax and deepen our stretches. Listening to our bodies is essential to avoid injury while we continue to test and extend the limitations of our body to improve our yoga abilities.
A learning environment
With this in mind, when we practice with a room full of others, it is sometimes difficult to completely resist the desire to have a quick look at what others are doing.
But we don’t necessarily have to feel guilty from these indiscretions. Yoga class is a learning environment, and there is a lot that we can learn and benefit from our curiosity if we remember that we are not in competition with the others in the room.
The most basic help from a quick look around is if we are not fully concentrating on the teacher’s instruction. If we are focussed on our current pose it’s possible that we miss the name of the next pose or didn’t fully understand the instructions then a quick look over can provide clarification.
While we may rely on the instructor to help with our alignment, it’s not always possible for them to visit us all individually for each posture. Instead, while we hold the pose we should be feeling our position, examining our alignment and correcting it ourselves – if there are mirrors in the room, they can help with this for some postures. If we are unsure about the correct alignment and position for some postures a quick look over at the more capable students in the room, to see their position, can be all that’s needed to correct our own understanding. If we can see the instructor correcting another student’s posture, we can follow that and try to apply it to our own posture. (Obviously this approach has the risk that we are copying someone else who is not aligned correctly. If you’re really unsure of the pose then it’s still best to ask the instructor).
Many of us started yoga to improve some aspect of our physical appearance, to loose fat, build muscle or improve our posture for example. A quick look over at the beautiful boys and girls elegantly stretching and exercising their bodies can remind us of what we’re trying to achieve, and show us what may be achieved. This can be a source of enormous inspiration and motivation from seeing what can be achieved by the more able students in the class, more so than looking at the instructor.
We expect the instructor to have certain abilities beyond ours simply because they are teaching us, they have the superior position in the teacher, student relationship. However, when we think of other students, we see them on the same level as ourselves, human just like us, and we can relate to them more easily. If we remember that they have probably reached their yoga abilities through practice, we can be inspired to further test our own boundaries.
Similarly, if we see one of our class mate’s abilities improving over time, we can be further encouraged that through more effort in our practice, or more focus on the areas that we want to improve, we too can achieve our goals.
Being able to listen to our body and bring awareness to our yoga requires a routine of deep stretching where each posture is held for longer to we have time to listen and learn. Discover how you can get this high quality yoga instruction through yoga streaming video
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