Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the new kid

I love taking yoga classes when I travel. It's become one of those things I do that's both a great way to soak up the local culture and to do something that's familiar. It's good for my body to do yoga after getting off a plane or train; it grounds me and helps me to arrive in a new place. Often, I learn a new way of thinking about a pose; in San Francisco I learned about why I should practice Parivrtta Parsvokonasana with my back heel up versus down. This week I took a class in Philadelphia and one in New York, and both times I did a variation of Warrior pose that I've not often done called Devotional Warrior: interlace the fingers behind the back, inhale and extend the arms back and down to open the chest; exhale and bend from the waist; work the front shoulder inside the front bent knee, eventually working the head down to the floor.

But I learned something else this week, too. I learned that the new kid in class always gets adjusted. Whether you introduce yourself to the teacher at the beginning of class or you come in late, the teacher's going to know you're a newbie to her class and as such, is going to press you deeper into a forward bend, exaggerate the rotation of your spine in a twist, or further deepen your rotation in a hip opener.

I generally don't mind being adjusted in class. I believe that the teacher knows more about yoga than I do, and can see things about my body that I can't see. And I've never had an experience where a teacher's ever been inappropriate. But generally, they're fine. I like that the adjustment puts me further into a pose, opens and awakens a sensation I've never felt before.

This week, though, I felt kind of like I didn't want the adjustment. One of the teachers came over to me and pressed on my thighs when I was in baddha konasana (that stretch you did in high school gym class when you put the soles of your feet together, bent your knees and opened them wide and tried to press them down to the floor) and I didn't feel anything. Nothing; her stretch didn't change my body at all. So why, I wondered, would this woman put her hands on my body and try to adjust me if nothing changes?

Maybe the teachers feels the need to prove that she can recognize that I'm new, and that she (most often it's a woman) sees me. Maybe she feels like a stranger to her class can't possibly have a practice that doesn't need adjusting because if it was all good I'd have been there for months now, and she has to catch me up by laying hands on me. Or maybe I just need to be adjusted. I don't know. I'm learning not to mind the conspicuous feeling I get from being the new kid in a new class, but I wonder about the kinds of things that yoga means to people. I'm also learning that yoga teachers aren't these great, evolved higher beings--of course, I generally tend to give people of leadership more power than they deserve--but that they bring in their own insecurities and hangups and flaws with them, and have trouble turning them off just because they're coaching me into a pose.

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