Hand's up if you hate a particular yoga pose? Seriously, anyone who does it enough will find a pose or two that drive them batty. I'm not so keen on headstand, mostly because I'm afraid of screwing up my neck. Over at Eco Yogini yesterday, there was a bit of a hate fest on a favorite pose of mine: corpse pose or savasana.
Now, the original post makes some good points about arising anxiety during the pose, and also pain in her sacral area. She didn't seem to be aware of the various modifications that you can do for corpse pose, but many of the comments that followed offered modifications for her.
What bothered me, though, was the level of "me, myself, and mine" focus that flowed through the comments on this post.
The first comment begins:
girlfriend, remind yourself that yoga practice is about YOU and no one else! your booty hurt? sit up and chill in your own way! your back hurt? do what you gotta do! the important thing is that you already understand the intention of the pose. you don't need to ask permission to do what makes you comfortable, and if your yoga teacher has the nerve to tell you to do something else, tell her/him they can kiss your sacrum, ahahaha
Fun sass, but last I checked yoga or any spiritual practice isn't about "what makes you comfortable." Of course, if you turn it into being about exercise, then "chill(ing) in your own way" probably makes sense, even if it's in the middle of a class full of others.
A few comments down, there is one that appears right on when you first read it, but then that thread of "self-focus" comes through.
There are actually lots of people who can't do that in a lying flat position. So, try lying on your side (which is actually what we learned in YTT to recommend for pregnant women - curled on the left side with pillows as needed). Or, try bending your knees to take stress out of your lower back. Or, just sit up and meditate like you want to. Seriously, this is the one pose that you can pretty much guarantee that NOBODY is watching - cause they all have their eyes closed!
I totally agree that some people can't do certain poses, even ones that look easy to the rest of us. A friend of mine has been working in yoga classes for paralyzed folks, and what they do versus what the rest of us do is clearly a different experience. And yet, when I read this comment a second time, I thought "no where in here is anything about the class teacher." It's as if there isn't a teacher even, or at least, what the teacher has to say or offer really doesn't matter much. I can't imagine just getting up and starting to do kinhin during group zazen because "no one is watching," but I suppose the way people approach yoga and Buddhist practice is different in some ways.
A few comments after this is the following gem: "ha ha ha - this was a reason why I don't do yoga classes, I hate being told to lay down and relax." At least the writer is honest and not attending classes where she wants it to be her way all the time.
And here's one last comment worth the price of admission:
This drives me batty!
The fact that the teacher doesn't say, "Come to savasana or any relaxation pose or sitting pose that YOUR BODY NEEDS RIGHT NOW..."
Or some such thing. Those are the words I use and I can't imagine the point of yoga if we aren't to teach students to LISTEN to their OWN bodies. OYE.
YOU shouldn't have to ask or tell the teacher; they should know.
Apparently, yoga teachers are now clairvoyants who can see the thoughts and struggles of every last student that arrives in their classes.
Thankfully, someone finally makes what to me felt like an obvious point by saying "Have you talked to your teacher about what's going on for you in savasana? They might not have any idea that you are having these huge reaction to the pose."
It seems to me that one of the main reasons for attending yoga classes, or working with any teacher, is that you're aware that this person might be able to teach you something. That they might have learned something about life that could help you. And even though it ultimately comes back to you, and is about "your practice," or "your life," if you haven't learned the scales, you can't play much music. Right?
If you read through the entire thread of comments, you'll see there are some wonderful insights from people who are probably practicing yoga sincerely, and with depth. I've read the blogs of a few of these folks, including Eco Yogini, and it's clear that they aren't just out for nice bit of exercise and a tight bod.
However, with all the popularity, commercialization, and competition amongst studios to get students in the doors, I think a hell of a lot gets compromised in the yoga world overall. This doesn't mean there aren't wise teachers grounded in the spiritual teachings out there - I've studied with four excellent teachers over the years. Nor does it mean that most yoga students are "all about the fluff" - I've met plenty who are sincere, dedicated, and becoming wise in their own right.
And yet, this post isn't unique at all: there are tons of posts bemoaning the many problems with yoga "in the west." So, something is certainly amiss, don't you think?
I don't have any answers, and for the most part, all I can do is do my own yoga practice as best as I can. And write a post like this once in awhile, just to keep the issue fresh in people's minds.