In January, before COVID-19 upended all our lives, I made a commitment to participate in advanced yoga teacher training with ISHTA. I was excited and nervous about this undertaking. I was excited and nervous about aligning myself and my learning with another school. I was excited and nervous about continuing my practice, doing homework, continuing to teach and doing what most of know is one of the foundations of this practice, learning more about myself.
As part of the curriculum, trainees are expected to complete a Svadyaya Project of their own design and present it to the class at the end of the training. Svadyaya is one of the Niyamas of Yoga as documented in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and is generally translated as “self study”. During our early mentor meetings we put forth ideas for our projects and with my mentor’s help I settled on something seemingly simple and would take me out of my comfort zone nonetheless. My project is to approach my home yoga practice without a plan or agenda, to trust myself to do what’s right for me and embrace spontaneity. It’s actually kind of terrifying. I’m supposed to do the same with my knitting but that’s another story.
One would think that this “Sheltering in a Place” environment would be a playground for this but I am a master at procrastination. Having the opportunity to study with so many inspiring teachers during lockdown hasn’t helped. My home practice has become one where I’m lead daily through some lovely, inspiring and challenging practices. Enter my ability to play.
These classes, live streamed via Zoom and other online platforms have become opportunities to try something new. When in a class, and going through a sequence, since I’m home, I can stop, contemplate, and take the time to explore my “what if” moment.
I know, it’s not the same thing. It is however serving as a launch pad for the kind of trust in myself that will help me to become a better teacher. This has been serving me particularly during moments when a class is instructed to do something that feels truly bad in my body; a movement or pose that serves me NOT ONE IOTA. For me recently, that was Skandasana.
Skandasana, that ridiculous (for me) exercise where you’re in Prasarita Padottanasana and you shift your weight from side to side, bending one leg then the other, getting increasingly deeper in the bent leg and maybe even flexing the foot of the straight leg. Ugh. The whole thing just feels so very wrong in my body. Then, in one class we were asked to hold the position on one side. This suggestion served a purpose in the whole gestalt of this peak pose focused class and for me at that moment I was in hell. Why was I tolerating hell? There are times when you’re challenged physically and the purpose and impermanence of the gesture make the challenge worthwhile. This was not one of those moments.
Enter the block.
I know, it’s so simple and at that moment it was revelatory. I could suddenly feel the purpose of the pose instead of cursing it. Sitting on the block at medium height (a height that worked for me), rather than shift my weight from side to side I stuck one leg out from Malasana then the other. I could suddenly find the space, strength and length to make Skandasana work for me.
I may see more self trust in my future.