Lessons from Yoga – Lesson 2.
This is a continued post. Part 1 is here.
Lesson 2: There are no corrections in yoga.
Lots of Corrections
Getting corrected by the teacher is hugely important in ballet: dancers look to the instructor constantly for feedback. Students rarely complain about getting too many corrections, and in fact, they usually correlate being corrected with being a good dancer- isn’t that strange?
One of my students put it perfectly: she said, if you get corrected, then there’s hope that you’re worth correcting!
Well, imagine my surprise when I started taking yoga classes 3 years ago and the yoga teacher didn’t correct me; she didn’t correct anyone really. I was shocked.
Over the next few months, I experienced varying emotions:
- surprise (How was I supposed to fix things without corrections?)
- anger (It’s your JOB to help me!)
- curiosity (Wait, she isn’t correcting anyone, and no one seems to mind…)
I started to notice that the other yoga students were not looking around at each other, or waiting for corrections. Everyone was focused inwards and negotiating the poses mostly on their own. The instructor would intervene if someone was in danger of hurting themselves, but otherwise, she would let us figure it out.
She kept describing the ideal position to be in and how it should feel, and then she gave us all the time and space we needed to negotiate it.
After getting over my initial shock, I had an A-Ha moment one day. I realized that if I had a good or bad practice, the only one affected was me. The motivation to practice, the quality of the experience, and its outcome were all up to me.
The best way to describe this realization is Liberating and Terrifying. Liberating because no one was judging me, which made me feel light and free. Terrifying because I had never worked purely for myself before.
I realized that as a dancer, I always had one eye on the teacher or artistic director, ready to gauge their reaction to my every move. With no one watching, where would the impetus to work hard and improve come from?
It has taken some time to get used to this new arrangement, but I have found motivation to have a good practice every time I go to the yoga studio. Having to work without cheating, even though no one is watching or correcting me, has changed my relationship to my practice and to myself.
The biggest lesson I have learned is to work honestly. Gone are the days of seeing what I want to see in the mirror, and consequently being happy with my work. Now it is all about how it feels: am I doing the pose correctly? Is it coming from an honest place? Am I making my best effort or just going through the motions?
Having only myself to answer to, rather than a teacher or director, has made my yoga practice a lesson in truth. And that is a lesson I could have used many years ago.