Finding the Right Instructor is Invaluable
If your yoga teacher is telling you what to do, it’s easy to get stuck where you are in your yoga practice. I call this the map method, which is the easiest way to teach “do x plus y plus z” day after day. But the best yoga is not a map. This is why I don’t even like to be called a yoga teacher, as that implies I can teach you what you need to know– I prefer yoga instructor, which is more like a guide. They best yoga will point you in a direction to move in, based on where you are in your life and along your path to self awakening. The best yoga recognizes that the answers are not found in the yoga itself, but in the places that yoga encourages you to look.
If your yoga teacher is only talking about the physical poses in a class, you are missing out. Yes you may experience some temporary benefits from an exercise oriented yoga class, but the true benefits of yoga are only experienced through self exploration. Find a teacher that will encourage you along your path, not by telling you what to do, but by suggesting a direction to move in. This may happen within the framework of a physical class, but if you have a good instructor, you will notice that they are talking about a lot more than the pose itself.
Recognizing that the best yoga instructors are only providing sign posts or directions to move in can be hard medicine to swallow, since it means that yoga will not spoon feed you answers. Your yoga will ask you to take personal responsibility for the direction you move in within your practice.
This can be particularly hard for many of us who are experiencing or have experienced stress, pain, trauma, and other challenges. The direction that yoga asks us to move in is towards these challenges rather that away from them, the so called “leaning into your pain”. This can be difficult, so don’t force it, we often need time and the development of self compassion in order to bring our yoga practice to the level where we can look at these deeper issues. And if it seems too difficult or overwhelming, remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to your yoga instructor one on one, or if you are in distress or suicidal, seek immediate medical attention – my experience has been that people who work in the medical profession are a wonderful resource – all you have to do is ask, you will not be judged.
So, it does take courage and it does require work. But the path that yoga will point you towards is also a lot of fun, and it will be incredibly rewarding if you stop studying the map, follow the signs, and experience the actual path. Think of yourself as an explorer, you are capable of handling anything that you encounter along the path of yoga.
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