Today I taught crow pose (bakasana) in my morning class. One of my students had a major breakthrough as she balanced for the first time. Beaming, she kept trying it again. In fact, it was hard for her to stop when we started moving onto the next pose. Afterwards she was aglow and bubbling with excitement. “I’ve never been able to do that before,” she exclaimed. “Today I finally got my knees in the right place and I got it!”
Arm balances were one of the reasons I decided I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I wish I could say it was a more deep, spiritual yogic reason, but really, it was arm balances. When I first started yoga I had very little arm or core strength. In my mind, arm balances seemed quite daunting and something that you had to be quite strong to pull off.
Despite the intimidating prospect of actually balancing on my hands, I signed up for an arm balance workshops with one of my very first yoga teachers. I was surprised to find that arm balancing has a lot less to do with arm strength than it does how you get into the pose. In a way, it’s a lot like math. Math can be pretty confusing, but in my experience, it was often a matter of someone explaining it in a different way that sparked the lightbulb moment where I finally got the concept. Now as a teacher, I continually pay attention to the various ways different teachers will explain getting into a pose so I can test them out and see if it resonates with any of my students.
Similarly, several lightbulbs went off for me when I discovered I could actually approximate the shape of some of these arm balancing poses, even if I couldn’t necessarily balance yet. It was a complete blast. In fact, all of us in the workshop were having so much fun, the instructor even asked if we’d like to go a little longer than planned with the workshop. He was met with a resounding, “YES!” As I laughed falling out of a pose, it occurred to me, “Hey, I think I might want to do this yoga teaching thing”. I loved the idea of facilitating a process where others can exhilarating experience of breaking through their perceived limitations.
Come to think of it, that is a pretty yogic reason to want to teach yoga. The physical practice can be a spiritual one too. It’s not about nailing that arm balance (although that feels pretty darn great). It’s about connecting the mind with the body and being open to taking that first step in the pose. You never know when that extra step will bust open the doors wide open to a new breakthrough.
What was a major breakthrough for you in your yoga practice?