Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Progress as a YSL (Yoga as a Second Language) Student

I'm hanging in there with the hot yoga thing. I don't love it, and I'm not usually happy about showing up at the class. But this afternoon was my 10th class, the last of the recommended number the studio says you should do before you really make up your mind about it.

Here's what I have observed so far. I am still stiff and awkward. (There is one pose that is called "Awkward Pose." That always makes me laugh because to me they are ALL awkward.) There are two or three poses that I am light years away from being able to do at all, let alone well. But several of the poses are a *tiny* bit easier now than they were a couple of weeks ago. I have more stamina and can do at least some awkward approximation of almost all the poses. I can make it through almost the whole class without feeling like I'm going to throw up. Last night marked the first class where I was able to just pretty much walk out the door at the end without having to sit and rest in the lobby for 10 or 15 minutes after class. And I think I have a lot more energy when I'm not in class.

And of course I find myself wondering how my experiences in yoga class compare to my life in the education world, so here goes.

Every body is different. Duh. The class is really challenging and everyone approaches the challenge with their own bodies. Although it is really hard to pay attention to anyone else, because I'm just so focused on not falling over, I have noticed out of the corner of my eye that poses that are relatively easy for me (relatively)  may be those that another person doesn't even attempt because they are hard for her. But that other person might be able to have pretzel-like flexibility on a pose that is massively difficult for me. This difference in flexibility might have to do with physiology or experiences or past injuries. Limitations, for whatever reason, exist. But each of us can still work with our own limitations and get better. Despite the common "curriculum" we all have to follow, some of us are going to excel in one area but not be nearly as graceful in others. The point is that each of us tries, and each of us gets incrementally better over time in at least some of the postures.

My tiny improvements are what motivate me to come back and to keep trying. The people at the front of the room are there because they've been at it awhile, and it gives those of us who are newer some role models to look to when we're not sure how to do something,  I do not look anything like those people at the front of the room. I would like to say that I don't look anything like those people at the front of the room yet, but that is a qualifier I'm not sure is necessary. I'm not convinced I will ever look like them. But I am getting some satisfaction out of the improvement that I can see in myself. It is motivating when, after just a couple of weeks, I can see a noticeable difference in my flexibility, stamina, and balance - even if those differences are not so noticeable to others. Kids might need your help in recognizing their own progress, but it's learning something new and getting better at something that is often way more motivating than a sticker or a grade.

I want My Teacher, and I don't like substitute teachers. I've been to ten classes and in five of them, I've had the same teacher. This teacher now seems to remember my name and knows that I have a hamstring problem, and she has twice - just twice - given me some individual feedback during a class. She's also given feedback to others in the class, by name. She is now the one that I refer to My Teacher. Maybe even My Favorite Teacher. You have to understand that these classes are identical. We go through 26 poses, in order, and it's clear that all the teachers have to memorize some kind of script, because even the way they all describe each of the poses is word-for-word the same. So you would think that the classes would be identical as well. But there is just something about having that special teacher there, the one who knows you and who knows what your particular strengths & challenges are. Even the tiniest hint of a relationship can matter.

Education 101, I guess: everybody is different, success is motivating, and relationships can make a huge difference. Namaste.

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