You hear it over and over, but it’s true: every body is different. A pose that makes me feel invigorated and free might make the next person feel anxious and vulnerable. Likewise, a pose that relaxes my neighbor might pinch my back, crank my neck, hurt my knees, and tweak my shoulder. This is why it is so important to listen to our bodies and let it lead us in our practices. Our bodies are our best teachers.
The really difficult part is making sure that when we listen, we’re hearing the body and not the mind. More often than not, when I find myself struggling in a pose, it’s usually because my mind is bored and restless but is tricking me into thinking that I’m in pain. Silly mind! With yoga, we can begin to train our mind’s chatter to fall away, leaving us with full body and breath awareness. When the mind is quiet, we can finally hear the heart. Our hearts are our best teachers.
In teacher training, we receive the tools to be able to start to still the mind. Through various yogic practices–scripture study, meditation, asana, pranayama–we learn to control the mind’s vices and move toward the union that is at the center of Yoga. Our Highest Selves are our best teachers.
So, there’s an irony in going to a class to discover that the best teacher is within. But if we don’t know that this teacher resides in the self, then she can never teach us anything. Sometimes you have to go to Oz before realizing that you already have everything you ever needed. But Kansas will never be the same.
Books are also good teachers.
Naming body parts is hard.
Practice makes practice.
Everything I ever needed to know, I learned on my yoga mat.
The last one into a handstand isn’t a rotten egg.
Picasso wasn’t a cubist at first.
The three musketeers were right.
Keep your shoulders at elbow-height.