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  • Diane

How NOT to practice yoga like a Jerk.....

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

.. You know who I'm talking about, you have seen them - you may even have been them (I know that I have been guilty of this myself in my early years of practice.) - That person who is right front and center in class: Usually has a strong amount of athleticism and confidence in their practice....

The one who is busting- up into headstands or other advanced 'showy' poses, completely un-cued by the instructor, and not part of the class curriculum - in what is an essentially more 'entry level' of asana class - completely oblivious to the energy of the rest of the class, the needs of the other students around them, and/or completely 'throwing-off' the rhythm of the instructor.... as they try to continue teaching around the fully inverted body in the middle of the room, while the rest of the class is in a forward fold!?! Call them enthusiastic, Type-A, self-absorbed.... instructors recognize that these practitioners are usually just oblivious, and in the process of working through their own control issues, perfectionism or competitiveness. We recognize that these people don't mean to be Jerks - rather that they really don't understand what a yoga practice is actually about, yet.

And yes, most of us can definitely see, the past incarnations of our own selves, in them. Usually these exuberant, newer yogis are bringing the common North American 'gym mentality' to the mat, or are there to get a really good workout and sweat-off any weekend -induced, extra indulgences - fair enough, we understand. What they have yet to understand, is that the practice of yoga is essentially about getting your head out of your own ass, and realizing your interconnection with all things. It's more about taking a journey through your physical body, in order to peel away the layers of your own untruths. To wring out tension and limiting beliefs - to emotionally exfoliate your bullshit.

But more specifically in a group class: it is about being in community - about recognizing the needs of everyone around you as a whole, as more important than your own. Everyone needs to be seen. We come to class to be in community, to recognize our interconnection with each other and to benefit from our shared energy - as a species, we are 'hard-wired' for connection! In a group class, all of our physical energy is connected and helps to hold each other up in difficult poses, whether we know it or not. This is precisely why, in most yoga studios - the instructor advises students not to leave the room in the middle of class and re-enter, as the entire class will energetically/physically 'feel' that one student leaving the room, and the practice and instructor will be noticeably disturbed. I am not saying that you cannot get your own individual needs met within a group class - or that there is no room for individual modifications within a class..... I AM saying that there is a way to do that mindfully of your fellow students, and respectfully of your instructor. Firstly, try and pick a class that is appropriate to your needs/level - this can nip the problem in the bud...... why are you coming to a Level 1 yoga class, with newbies learning Downward Dog - when you want/need to be doing a Level 3 arm-balance and inversion class?!?! - If it's the only class you can make that day that fits your schedule..... Well then, you really want to respect the Level of the class you showed-up for. The reason for this is two-fold:

1. As I mentioned above, to not distract from the rest of the class and remain respectful of what your instructor is trying to achieve. 2. If you are in a beginner level class; you may not realize what instructors see every day - new students are more apt to follow what they SEE other students doing, rather than what their instructor is CUEING (even more so, if it looks to them like you know what you are doing!) So essentially, you are not only intimidating the hell out of the newbie with your twisted arm balance - but you are endangering them by unknowingly leading them into a posture that is completely inappropriate for them, and potentially harmful. By example, as a decade long instructor of a variety of yoga disciplines, with a strong amount of athleticism - and a good amount of injury-related, therapeutic needs; actually, getting to the mat for my own practice is a 'big deal' and a time when I like to practice for the benefit of my own health.

However, if I know that I will be needing to modify the practice and stray from the teacher’s instructions at all, I will do 3 things:

1. I will inform my instructor of my possible need to modify. 2. I will go off in a corner/edge, periphery of the practice room, so that I am not in midline of sight and unintentionally distracting the instructor or energy of the class. 3. I will wait until others are already in their version of the pose, before going into mine - so as, not to misguide any new students who may be inadvertently 'following' my practice (as newer students are prone to do). Kindly, do the same;)

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