Yoga

Asana on Demand

So this kid who attends my “home” studio kind of annoys me.

[sidenote: He’s like 23 and it is very scary to me that I am old enough to think of him as a kid. But he sometimes behaves like an overgrown 8-year-old. So I do.]

Upon my return to LY, he said, “Oh Keisha! You just finished teacher training, right? You need to practice in the front row so I can check out your skills!”

We’ve already established that I have zero tact.  I just ignored him and set my mat in my usual corner in the back row.

After class, a student who was relatively new to the studio overheard him lamenting the fact that the teacher hadn’t done Bird of Paradise.  She asked him what the pose looked like.  I was, again, in the corner, minding my business, just trying to let the effects of the practice sink into my bones.  The kid turned to me and said, “You can do Bird of Paradise, right? Can you show us?”

Without looking at him, I began to pack my things and said, “I have to get home.  But since you wanted to do it in class so badly, why don’t you do it?”

I’m not sure if he caught the annoyance in my voice, because he clapped his hands and said, “You’re right!” Then he proceeded to demonstrate the pose as I sidestepped his puddles of sweat on the bamboo floor, trying to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, before he could make any more ludicrous requests of me.

It took me a little while to figure out why I was so annoyed, and why I’ve since avoided taking classes with him.  But here it is:

I’m not a show pony.

I didn’t go through teacher training to become some superstar yogini.

I took the course because I wanted to learn how to teach yoga.

The fact of the matter is, although I have a fairly regular physical practice, there are just certain poses that my body, at this point, is unable to do.  I don’t necessarily have the lightness and fearlessness required for arm balances and inversions. I also have tight hips, tight quads, tight hamstrings. Pretty much the only part of my body where I’m not tight is my shoulders. So the arms in Gomukhasana  are no problem…but that’s not particularly impressive. I’m working on increasing my flexibility— I’ve even begun a yin practice. But that takes time. I have learned not to push myself. Pushing myself (training for the 10k that never was) is how I ended up with this bum knee. And I certainly won’t push myself for some overzealous student’s entertainment.

I can do Bird of Paradise, for the most part. My hamstrings do not allow me to extend my leg all the way. I’m okay with that.  Some days, my leg can straighten nearly all the way. Other days, I just chill in Utthita Parsvakonasana with my arms bound,  and I don’t bother with Bird of Paradise. Honestly…the fact that I can even bind facing my right is a physical triumph for me. I have scoliosis; my spine hooks to the left (which I exacerbate, much to my mother’s exasperation, by carrying my very heavy purse on my left shoulder), so twisting to the right can be downright painful for me. Regardless of my issues with the pose, it bothered me that this kid just assumed that I would perform for him.

I don’t go to class to show off. I go because it makes me feel good.  Compliments about the “impressive” poses  I can do make me slightly uncomfortable. Is it nice to be able to do beautiful things with my body? Absolutely. But the satisfaction of those poses comes from the hard work it takes to learn them, to make them work for my body. And one thing I learned throughout my teacher training—the physical practice is the least important part of this yoga journey for me.  Asana, though challenging, is not the reason why I show up to my mat every day.

When I attend classes, I try my best not to pay attention to the yogis around me. My practice is my practice. It doesn’t serve me to steal glances at another woman’s Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and wonder why she can get her back leg so high in the air and float there like magic, while I struggle to lift off for even just a few seconds.  So the idea of this kid watching me to see my “skills” made my skin crawl. It made me want to say to him: “Are you here to practice yoga? Or do you want to do gymnastics? Because there are gyms for that.”

But his practice is his practice.  Everyone does yoga for different reasons.

I will just keep ignoring him, and keep working on my Bird of Paradise until I can straighten that leg all the way.

And don’t expect me to just bust out a forearm stand or Eka Pada Galavasana for shits and giggles. It’s not gonna happen.

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2 thoughts on “Asana on Demand

  1. You sound just like me, flexible shoulders, tight quads/hamstrings, squinty spine… as my tutor said, there’s a place and role for all kinds of yoga teachers, not just the superbendy 🙂

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