I’ve been practicing yoga for over a dozen years, ever since my daughter brought yoga home from college. But, I’m still a dabbler: I go to different studios, learn from different teachers, and have taken many different classes. Alas, all these studios and teachers and classes have led to a lot of different cues buzzing around my head.
Recently, I took all those yoga “buzzes” to a 3-day retreat at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. Wow! What a wonderful experience! Best of all, it opened me up to a whole new understanding of yoga.
At my regular round of classes, the emphasis is often on listening to the teacher first. The teachers talk to my brain and then I talk my body into the pose. They said “stand with your legs spread wide so the wrists are over the ankles and then make sure your back foot is almost turned at a 90 degree angle and rotate your thigh internally and always breathe!” Only after listening are you allowed to actually spread your legs and do whatever. In fact, if I moved while they were still cueing, some of my teachers would jokingly call me a “future yogi” and then ask that I just listen to them talk.
At Sivananda, the focus is just the opposite. I was told to start by listening to my body, not to start by listening to the cues of my teacher or the buzzes from other teachers in my head.
What a difference! The teacher said “Warrior 1,” so I got into Warrior 1. I didn’t worry about alignment or turning just so or trying to line everything up; I didn’t think of all those different cues from all those different teachers. I just got into Warrior 1. And then, instead of waiting for the teacher or thinking back to their cues, I listened to my body. I felt my legs, realized they weren’t solid, so I searched my brain and found the right cues for me. After planting my front hip and rotating my thigh internally, I was solid and comfortable.
This new process, listening to my body first, was wonderful! My postures were suddenly more solid, more relaxed, but somehow more alive. Now, maybe all of this clicked because I’ve been doing yoga for a while and could get into many of the basic asanas. And maybe, I was just ready for something new. But clearly, listening to my body first is where I am now in my yoga practice. And, it works!
But, even after my wonderful experience at Sivananda, I’m still committed to Susan Yoga: doing yoga my way. I’m not booking a month at another tropical ashram to do intensive teacher training or going to India to study with yogis. I’m just taking the time to listen. Listening to my body first and then to my mind has led to stronger Warriors and deeper Down Dogs. Teachers have always told me to “honor” my body, but only when I started “listening” to my body, rather than all the buzzing, did I finally feel how Down Dog could be a rest pose. I am finally starting to feel my energies align! It’s only taken 12 years.
So, that’s the moral here. I’m listening to my body first, then the cues from all my teachers in my head, and finally practicing Susan Yoga. And you know, Down Dog really can be a resting pose!
Thank you to our guest blogger, Susan Greenwood, for this insightful and entertaining post, and thank YOU for taking this journey with me!
If you'd like to contact Susan firstname.lastname@example.org.
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