Friday, January 27, 2006

The process

I've begun thinking about yoga classes from a teachers' perspective, and it's a little unsettling.

I know the basic elements of each posture, but knowing and conveying knowledge to another seem like entirely different exercises. So I tried to pay attention this morning to the verbal cues the instructor provided. And I quickly discovered how many posture cues she actually gives during a class. The teacher was someone whom I've practiced with many times. I'm familiar with her style. Likely, she's familiar with mine, as well. But in paying attention this morning to her cues, I realized that I often don't pay attention to the basic form instructions that follow the teacher's calling of a particular pose by name. My mind goes somewhere else -- sometimes to the inside of a shoulder joint, frequently to the strain of exertion in lunged leg, maybe to the sweat dripping off my face.

I've always been a little mystified and a little impressed by a teacher who can demonstrate gracefully the full extension of a pose, all the while continuing to talk, cueing the class on various aspects of the pose. In the full extension of most poses, gasping for oxygen like a fish on the sand, my face clenched into a knot, is as much as I can manage. Listening this morning, it seemed to me that the instructor, in contrast, provided clear, simple cues. But I noted that a couple of the students in the room still wound up backwards a time or two, perhaps confused for a moment by the verbal cues. When they got stuck, they stopped and looked around, taking visual cues from the instructor when she was modelling a pose, or from the other students in the class.

I suppose that to move forward, I'll first need to memorize the pose sequence (or at least segments of the pose sequence), and then sort out the pose-specific cues and memorize them.

At any rate, as I was walking to work after practice this morning, it occurred to me that the basic sequence of any pose -- or experience in life -- should be this: