Happy Baby Steps

Tonight I was the last minute sub for a Foundations yoga series course. Foundations Three, a four week course, builds on the basics honed in sessions One and Two and adds in myth, mantra and pranayama (breath-work).

Speaking of breath, what took mine away is how amazing these newbies were. Here they had already committed to eight weeks of consecutive yogic learning, and have now signed up for four more. But they were also keenly interested in the whys and hows of the practice. I was able to break down poses in way not available to a typical vinyasa class. We practiced chaturanga dandasana with a strap to ensure no one was lowering their body too far to the earth.

Why? Because just dropping into this pose puts undue stress on your shoulder’s rotator cuff. Also, you sacrifice building arm strength should you merely lower your body to the ground without proper 90 degree arm alignment.

Finally, when lowered to the proper level, chaturanga dandasana lets you roll forward and over your  toes into a seamless urdhva mukha svanasana or upward facing dog.

Do most yoga teachers instruct on all this in a typical flow class? Nope. There really isn’t the opportunity nor expectation for that type  of detailed precision per pose. So how do students learn these fundamentals?

Have YOU ever walked into a yoga class feeling ill at- ease, somewhat clueless and praying that your mat at the back of the room would not draw attention? Maybe it has been so long since your first classes you’ve forgotten the sensation of fear in the studio.

We ALL are newbies at something or else we’re acting like we’re already six feet under. Students learn the fundamentals from regular practice under the guidance of a skilled instructor. They learn because they’re willing to push past fear and step into the uncomfortable newness. Eventually and often soon, the fear fades  to appreciation and then grows in the opposite direction to excitement. But without initially bypassing the fear of failure, no one makes any progress.

Tonight, I learned from these students probably more than I taught. I was reminded of the courage it takes to do something new and challenging. That resting too long in a seat of familiarity breeds not mastery, “butt” merely imprints in the couch. So I ask you and myself this evening:

 Where can we take some happy baby steps towards a new goal?
 What is causing us to sit stagnant versus taking action?
 How can we appreciate the process of learning while we push past the fear?

Practice makes perfect. And I wish you perfect peace in your process.

Stephanie Greene