Self-Practice: One (of many) Reasons

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I have certain knowings that come into and out of my awareness with my practice over time. This particular knowing has eluded me lately, as I’ve been in this season of resisting my practice.

This morning, it wasn’t a struggle to practice, there was no internal argument even though I paused to prep some food for after practice (an activity normally fraught with opportunities to procrastinate or avoid practicing entirely!) I strode directly from the kitchen, onto my mat, four steps away. Slow, yin-style holds segued into a steady rhythmic flow and then back into long holds, intense stretches. Sinking in, I watched my mind respond to the sensation, and run from it, and return again. Somewhere along the way, this particular understanding returned:

One reason that I practice is because I teach. My practice supports me as a person – it helps me move through my life with greater awareness, ease, and enjoyment, and it also supports my students. I knew again, solid as the floor underneath my hips, that the most important thing I can do as a teacher is not to build sequences, practice phrasing or clarity of verbal instruction, it’s not to study anatomy, physiology and alignment or reading of foundational yoga texts.

This is not to say that anatomic or philosophical knowledge, or the ability to articulate myself clearly isn’t important. It IS. It’s not that these activities don’t also support my students and my ability to teach effectively, because they do. But the truth, for me, is that these activities are (always) secondary. If I do not practice how to discern between sensation and pain, I cannot describe how that process works. If I don’t practice tuning into and following the currents of my own body, I cannot guide anyone else to do the same. If I am not consistently working with the rhythms of my own breath, and my own mind, I cannot accurately or adequately express what this is like. And, maybe most importantly, if I’m not actively working on compassion for myself, if I’m not bravely (more or less, depending on the day), facing those parts of myself that disappoint me along with those I embrace, I cannot possibly support anyone else in doing the same.

The single most important thing that I can do as a teacher to support my students is to practice. If I don’t practice, then all I can do is repeat what I’ve been told these actions feel like, or how they work for someone else. In which case, I’m not teaching from direct experience, from my own body, my own mind, my own heart. It’s absolutely true that your experience of these aspects could be entirely different than mine, but if I cannot speak about how it works for me, if I’m not familiar with the ever-changing landscape of my own body and mind, I can’t hope to communicate with you in a way that might reflect your own experience.

After my practice this morning, I felt calm, whole, happy… I felt fed, fueled. And it felt like more than a bowl, just for me, it felt like a whole banquet. May it be of use.

This, this is what is on my mind this morning, this is what came of my practice. Fellow teachers, there can be a lot of discussion and pressure around our what our personal practice “should” entail. Know that this post is simply an observation from my own experience and that part of my mission is to remove the guilt from practice and make it accessible and enjoyable – there is no judgement here.

Fellow students (and student-teachers!), I’d love to know what sort of “knowing’s” you encounter in your practice? Do they cycle in and out of your awareness or do they stay? 

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