Being Hangdog in Down Dog
I woke up one day last year and said, "I think I'll be a yoga instructor today." Luckily, the Yoga Powers that Be require you to put the brakes on a little before just jumping in; so, I enrolled in the Life Power Yoga Teacher Training program at my gym. "How scary could it be?" I wondered. I'd taught group fitness classes since the dawn of time.
Compared to the other future-teachers in our training, yoga was brand new to me. I mean, sure, I’d done a few down dogs in my time, but certainly not enough to ever be good at them or to get my heels to touch the ground in one. After our first weekend of training, I was a mixed bag of feelings. First, I was proud to have made it through the first 15 hours. Also, I came home the first night elated that I’d actually taught a few yoga poses well. It was new to me to teach people without yelling for them to go faster! Do more! Push through the burn! Unfortunately, I ended our first weekend feeling silly while trying to hold one foot out in front of me only by my big toe.
That first weekend, I was full of “I used to be’s.” I used to be a strong, flexible athlete. I also used to be 20 when all of this was so. In her article, Measuring Up, Donna Farhi writes that we need to “reevaluate our measuring devices” for success – especially when your body can no longer do the physical feats you once based your success on. Or, let’s say, you’re now a 30-something-year-old woman. So, that becomes a question of not only how you determine success, but if you're like I was, also how you determine failure. Of course failure still exists, but after that first weekend, it meant a lack of trying instead of a lack of contorting.
The thing that makes yoga practice different from any other fitness practice is that the goal is to open your heart, not just your hips, as the yogis say. Farhi stated what became motto for all Tsirona clients: “Remarkable changes can go unnoticed and unacknowledged.” Changes may not show up in how deeply you can move into a pose or how long you can hold your leg up behind your head. In yoga specifically, the change is, to use an old yoga cliché, both on and off the mat. Change can be seen when you are able to focus on a task at hand; when you find compassion for someone who is a little difficult; and, most importantly, when you accept that you’re always a work in progress and that everyone else out there is too.
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