Before I began teaching yoga, for years, I would roll out my mat with all the intentions of practicing for 45 minutes or more. Inevitably, the moment I began all my accumulated practice would disappear somewhere. I was an avid student and yet when I wanted to practice on my own, the options my brain offered were a few singular poses: triangle, seated twist, seated forward bends, head stand. There was no rhythm or logical connection between the poses.
That hasn’t really changed since I’ve started teaching. Though I may love doing familiar poses with my class, and also exploring exciting challenge poses, I rarely feel the same burst of energy to sink my teeth into sun salutations and arm balances when I practice alone. It seems that I need other people to distract me from myself, or maybe simply to motivate myself. Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit of an extrovert and I gain energy when I’m doing yoga with others. Whatever the case, I feel the most excited about doing yoga when I’m teaching and when I’m practicing with others.
But something has changed when I practice alone. I just move. I’m not concerned about whether it’s yoga or dance or some random martial arts move I saw somewhere. I move around and see what really feels good for my body. I’m thinking about how my muscles are moving, strengthening, and stretching. I think about how my bones are stacked in a particular pose and if I’m cutting a corner somewhere. I let go of the yoga poses in principle and focus more on the physical experience of my body, trying to see and feel my body from the outside in and the inside out. This new movement practice of mine comes after years of yoga, dancing, exercise, and studying anatomy and physiology, so it’s an informed movement practice.
The exciting part of teaching is helping others become informed enough about movement and their bodies that they can also have the heightened awareness of how their mind and their body can actually move together, being both intellectual and physical at the same time. Teaching this to others is like a mental yoga practice all on its own. Sometimes I’m not sure if the awareness that we’re supposed to get from yoga has ever seeped into my head or if I’m just teaching because I like people. I guess it worked its way in there somewhere though, despite my best efforts.