Anatomy and arm balances

I can now officially say I’ve made it through the first week of TT!  That’s because I went to our first anatomy class on Tuesday evening, and I’m counting that as part of the week.  I also went to my regular class on Monday and today, Wednesday.  I’ve practiced for five days in a row, and I must say, I feel pretty great.  A little tired, sure, but nothing major.  At the risk of sounding too new-agey, it is really such a privilege to spend time each day being conscious of the breath and movement in my body.  I mean, nothing is stopping any one of us from taking a moment to fill our lungs or move or stretch.  But it’s easy to get caught up in the business of daily life and forget to do that.  One of the many things I love about practicing yoga is that it gives me an opportunity to take (and sometimes, make!) that time for my mental and physical health.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes!  Knees and toes!

Anatomy is the part of the training that I have been sort of excited by and intimidated by it all at the same time.  I always wanted to be one of those students who could answer the teacher when she asked, “so in this pose the foot is in…?” and some of the other teachers or trainees in the room would say “plantarflexion!” or “dorsiflexion!” and I would just sort of look at them and have no idea what was going on.  But now I know the difference!  To be honest, it’s not even so hard to remember.  Plantarflexion is when you pointthe foot, dorsiflexion is when you flex the foot (think of the dorsal fin on a shark!  It sticks up, like a flexed foot.)  We also learned about the three planes of motion – think of the three dimensions in, say, one of those Pixar films where you have to wear funny glasses.  Or the x, y and z axes from math class.  Paula Liberis is an anatomy ninja, and she is leading our Tuesday night sessions.  I’ve taken many of her classes over the years, and I’m excited to get to learn from her.

Arm balances and the tension of opposites

Tonight’s class brought up one of my most confounding and yet recurring yoga questions.  Tonight’s peak pose was this crazy arm balance.  I’m just going to be honest here: that is not within the realm of possibility for me right now.  I’m not a bad person because I can’t do this pose, and happily, I know it.  But what happened in class tonight has happened in a lot of classes I’ve been to, and if you’ve been to more than a few yoga classes I’m sure it will sound familiar to you:

Teacher, leading the class into some extremely complicated pose: “Be with your own practice.  It’s not a competition.  Don’t look around; it doesn’t matter what other students are doing.”

Student, thinking to herself that she knows this isn’t happening today: “Uh…”

Student tries to appear busy and hopes the teacher doesn’t look at her.

Teacher, noticing students who are not attempting said Hard Pose: “Do your own work.  Just because you’re not doing the hard pose doesn’t mean you aren’t doing anything.”

Student, thinking to herself that she wasn’t given any other accessible options: “Uh…”

I know that yoga is supposed to be about tension of opposites – press down to go up, and so forth – but this is tension I haven’t figured out how to deal with.  Am I supposed to not compete with others, or am I supposed to try and smush myself into the pose so that I look busy, even though I know that right now I am not ready or able to do the pose, and as a matter of fact, I am at peace with that?

I always wonder what teachers are thinking when they give instructions like this.  And now I am studying to be a teacher.  Do you think the light bulb will go off at some point and I will know the answer?