Thursday, January 04, 2007


Confluence: the meeting point of disparate streams, events, or ideas.

Two weeks ago, I underwent a surgery to fix long standing problems in my right shoulder. The surgeon drilled and bored and burned and scraped and riveted and sutured and went on to the next patient. I remember bits and pieces of the events. It was outpatient surgery and I asked the anesthesiologist to leave out the stuff that makes me forget everything that happened. Still I was drugged to the gills, so my memory is sketchy. But I’ve got the scars and the pain and the weakened and painful shoulder, so I doubt it was all just made up.

As you might imagine, Down Dogs are no longer my preferred posture.

But as kismet, fate, karma, God, the Field, or just sheer luck would have it, I found myself this week teaching my first solo yoga classes. The best part was that the students are all true beginners. That allows me to set aside my self-consciousness, as they don’t really know any better.

A few notables: with my right humerus essentially limited to motions at or below shoulder height, and pretty particular even about some of those, I can’t demo nice, proper versions of lots and lots of poses. With each class, I had newcomers, so I started with a refrain of “please evaluate my instructions in light of your own knowledge of your own body. If I ask you to do something that doesn’t seem right, don’t do it.” Then I noted that I’m far from able-bodied at this point myself, and as I demo-ed various poses, I’d explain the modifications I was making for myself so that they wouldn’t mistake my versions of the poses as the “right” ones.

So is a decrepit teacher better than an entirely fit one? Possibly. Perhaps not for those who must see a perfecting physical body in front of them in order to find the discipline to return each week to the mats. But for real people with real (defective) bodies and a reasonable approach to the practice…