I was practicing recently in with a teacher I've never practiced with. The class was going very well until there was a shift into a posture with an alignment cue and an assist that felt dangerous to me. In fact I heard this voice in my head say "don't do it." I was the student, so I had to obey my teacher...this was the crazy motivating thought in my mind. As a teacher I always encourage my students to modify their practice to their needs, even if they don't agree with me. So here I was in this situation ignoring my own advice I give to my students. So I allowed a very dangerous hands on assist to happen to me all because I didn't want to make the teacher feel bad by saying "no thank you, I'm fine." What proceeded later was a few days of pain in my lower back from twisting and putting myself into a position I shouldn't have been in. You see my inner voice, or inner teacher as I will call it, told me this wasn't something I should do. I ignored it. We ignore our greatest teacher, OURSELVES, all the time. If we could just listen more intently to that inner guide we will be guided gracefully into our own Independence on and off the mat.
Trusting in your inner teacher isn't an easy thing, it's a practice. We doubt that inner voice because we doubt ourselves. We constantly doubt our own ability to make decisions for ourselves because we fear we are going to make the wrong choices. We have been encouraged all of our lives to make wise choices because if we don't there will be consequences. Sadly for many of us this has led us to being scared to make our own choices, so we rely on others to tell us what to do. We rely on people who we deem worthy to make those decisions for us. But we are our own best judge of experience after making choices. Our inner voice is leaning us towards our highest best and good, always. Had I listened to that inner teacher I wouldn't have spent three days in pain trying to undo a really bad hands on assist. This is in all areas of life...if we listened to our inner teacher we wouldn't get into debt in the first place, we wouldn't lie, we wouldn't over-extend ourselves, we wouldn't need someone to tell us what the perfect way to eat is, and the list goes on and on. That inner teacher is present at all times, some call it intuition and others call it their inner guidance.
On the mat we have opportunity to cultivate a dialogue with our inner teacher through the observation of our mind chatter. Throughout the challenging postures (and yes even Warrior 2 after all these years can STILL be challenging) we encounter dialogue in our minds. Most of us are so buried in it that we aren't aware that it's happening in our practice, but once we start to tune into the mind and separate ourselves from the chatter, we begin to carve a path for the inner teacher. I was in a challenging asana the other evening during a class and I noticed my mind was going crazy: "you're not strong enough for this! You're not flexible enough! You're going to fall...." were all thoughts that I observed. Beneath that was this still small voice saying "be calm, slow down, take it one step at a time and keep your focus. You don't have to reach the fullest expression of this asana today." That is my greatest teacher speaking to me throughout the practice. The more I come to the mat, the more I am now able to listen to that inner voice and trust it.
Yogis, if something doesn't feel right to you on the mat, don't do it. Listen to your inner guide. If you're tired and need to rest, listen to the guide. Start to peel away the layers of the mind chatter to carve the path for your greatest teacher...YOU. Can we begin to invite this teacher not only onto our mats but into our daily lives? YES. Meditate, pray, journal, or even do a rain dance to clear the cobs webs away in your mind from whatever you're seeking divine guidance on. Clear the path and your life will be charged with independence. Independence from the mind chatter, others, society, and anything else that weighs heavily on you.
This week as we celebrate Independence Day in the United States, I am celebrating my own independence and free will by committing to paving the path for my inner teacher. Honoring our inner teacher this week will be our intention as we mindfully move through a challenging asana practice. Join me on the mat! The schedule is a little more limited this week due to the holiday. I will also be taking a much needed week of vacation starting on Sunday to spend time with my family.
Love and Light to you all!