What if you let Yourself get Messy at Yoga? (Even if you were the teacher!!!)


It's been a while since I commented on my teaching process so here's a good old behind the scenes yoga teacher post for you.

I love Ashaya Yoga for many reasons. One of them is that it just makes sense in the body from a biomechanical perspective.  The alignment of Ashaya Yoga feels like a returning home for the muscles and joints in the body.  (Yoga Alliance now prohibits me from using words like "healing" and "therapeutic" .... but those things cross my mind when I think about Ashaya Yoga).  

I find that my students are particularly receptive to the nitty-gritty, clean and clear alignment details of Ashaya in the fall. This time of year they seem to have the mental energy and the inner drive to really take the integrations up and down the body and run with them.  Therefore, this year like last year, I've been focusing on moving from the foundation up the body, teaching the nit-picky fine details of physical placement.  And it's working brilliantly.  

My students seem to "get it".  I'm noticing changes in their bodies that are sustaining week to week.  And they are reporting that they feel positive changes.

Not to mention, this plan of moving up through the body in a sequential way using the template of layers of integration built into Ashaya Yoga makes the weekly task of class planning much easier.  I could go to my notebook right now and tell you what the students will be working on in December if we keep up with this structure.  I'm teaching and coaching more than ever so the structure helps keep my anxiety about class planning to a minimum. 

Sweet! All of this makes me happy!

And then there's the other part.

The other reason I love Ashaya Yoga and I loved Anusara Yoga before it is the Theme.  I love practicing with more than the physical in mind.  I love to feel inspired beyond just what my body is doing as I move it into and out of postures.  And, as a teacher I LOVE sharing with my students how the yoga philosophy has inspired me or taught me something in the last week.


Here's what I'm noticing.  As my level of structure in the planning of the physical side of the class has gone up, my level of inspiration for planning the theming side of the class has gone down.  Like, way down.  Down, Down, Down to the point that I would call myself "Blocked" many days  That is a feeling I most certainly do not love.  I hate it.

This week I found myself in exactly the same place again.  Great plan for the physical side of the practice, ZERO plan for the theme side of the practice.  So feeling frustrated once again, I started to question myself about it.

Why am I feeling blocked about this? What can I do about it?

Eventually it became clear to me the culprit was that stubborn habit of mine of wanting everything to tie up into a nice neat bow that fits perfectly.

I wanted to have the best possible theme to connect with the hearts of the students who walked through the door. I wanted the theme to wow and inspire them to greatness without overwhelming them or pushing too hard. I wanted it to be just right for every single student.  I wanted it to match perfectly with the pinnacle pose we were going to do. I wanted it to align exactly to the physical cueing I'd be giving.  And, of course, it needed to roll off my tongue effortlessly.  I want, I want, I want.... Humph!

Perfectionist Much?

As soon as I stepped back, it became so completely obvious to me that I was caught in my own perfectionist spell.  As Todd would say: "I'm having a moment of perfectionism."  (Isn't that nice instead of judging and labeling myself?!)

I have some experience with my perfectionist self.  And I'm getting better at not believing her.  And that's just what I did for my theme this week.  I didn't believe her that any bit of this teaching thing had to be tied up in a nice neat bow.  I actually got very transparent with my students and literally told them as the theme about my block and my realizations. Then we worked with practicing yoga as it's meant to be practiced: imperfect, authentic, real, and sometimes down right messy.

What I realized is this: If I don't allow for some mess, I'll never have any Magic.

The outcome?  Some seriously fun times with my students. Way more magic this week than last. And a feeling of inner freedom and joy that had been missing when I felt boxed in by my plan and perfectionism.  

Yoga doesn't want us all to be exactly the same.  Yoga doesn't want us to not struggle and have everything in place.  No.  Actually, yoga philosophy and even hatha yoga alignment asks us to step outside of our comfort zones.  It asks us to stretch our limits.  It directly tries to make things so messy inside and out that we HAVE to rebuild ourselves in new, stronger, healthier ways.  That is the nature of yoga.  And that's why it works and has been around for so long.  If it only wanted perfect, cookie cutter people, it would be a competitive sport like synchronized swimming.  

Yoga is not synchronized swimming.  Yoga is meant to be a place to leave your perfectionism at the door.  Yoga is a place to experiment, to test, and to let yourself get messy. Yoga is gives you feedback about what works and what doesn't.  Feedback that you can build your LIFE on if you really listen. 

And guess what yoga teachers out there? ALL of what I wrote in the last paragraph applies to YOU too.  Perhaps even more.  We yoga teachers try to tell ourselves that now that we are in the front of the class, we can't experiment or mess around.  We have to know and be "it all".  I say, to hell with that.  It's in a studio for a reason.  Studios are for messy, artistic, transformative work.  Let's get to it!

I hope you can allow that of yourself. And if you can, I hope our paths will cross and we can practice together.   I hope you can allow that of me if I am lucky enough to be your teacher one day.  Let's allow the mess in each other and just see what happens shall we?  

Because I am WAY more interested in people when they actually get real both on the mat and off.