“It’s amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.” ~~ Ben Stein
Photo Courtesy of UrbanVox.net
For all you yogis out there, even you teachers, I’ve got a challenge for you this week. SWITCH IT UP!
What do I mean by that, you ask? Switch it up? Huh?
Well, many of us get stuck in our yoga practice from time to time. Maybe you only practice one particular style, or you stick with one particular teacher’s classes. If you’re a teacher, maybe you’re so busy teaching that you never get the opportunity to be the student once in awhile. When you keep doing the same thing over and over again, sometimes you get stuck. You go on autopilot and just go through the motions without being mindful. And when this happens, it can make things feel boring and stale. Sound familiar?
For me, it’s manifested itself in the way that I teach my classes. I’ve become so rigid in my sequencing formula that my students ALWAYS seem to know what’s coming next. That’s not necessarily a horrible thing…after all, I mainly teach Power Yoga, so there are some definite things that need to be done in each and every class. And since I am not bound to one particular Power style from the training I received, I am free to be creative in the way that I choose to weave these elements into my classes.
However, I feel like I barely have time to create my playlists and figure out the peak pose I want to focus on each week. With my full-time job, family obligations, health issues, and a plethora of other things that creep their way into my life, I pick a sequencing formula I know off the top of my head and just switch up the poses so that it’s easier for me.
Until a few months ago, I didn’t even notice that’s what I was doing. But I did notice that I was starting to feel “stale” in my teaching, and worried that I was boring my students to death. These past few months, I have been better about attending other teachers’ classes or doing new Podcast classes when I can’t make it to the studio…and that’s when it hit me. That I needed to switch things up.
In trying out new teachers and new classes, I noticed I had to pay attention more while I was on my mat. After all, being with a new teacher or in a new class means I can’t guess what’s coming next, right? So I had to pay attention. As I started to pay more attention, I noticed how my body and breath were responding in a whole new way.
I also started picking up on different ways to string sequences together, and I started getting excited. I found myself thinking, “Ooh…I love how he/she transitioned from X to Y! Maybe I should try teaching it that way sometime!”
So yesterday, I tried it out. I taught a sequence a little differently from the way I usually do. If you were at class yesterday (Sunday, 3/10), I’d love your feedback because to be honest, I felt like a fish out of water. I was unsure of myself, especially when I saw everyone in the room immediately start to go where I traditionally go next. So my confidence and my cueing may have suffered a bit as I struggled to continue on with my plan to be different.
But I stuck with it, and in the end, I feel like it went OK. Not the best class I’ve ever taught, but that’s OK. The point is that I tried something new. I switched it up, so to speak. In fact, though it was scary as hell, I’m gonna do something different again this week. Why? Because I know I need to do this for both myself and my students. How will I ever continue to grow as a teacher if I continue to do things the way I’ve always done them? I’ve got to step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there, and give myself the opportunity to discover something extraordinary. And even though I picked it apart in my head afterwards as to all the things I wished I’d done better in class yesterday, I did see smiles on the faces around me. And that’s good.
If you’re able to come to one of my classes this week, we’ll be switching things up by doing a Mandala sequence. Mandala means circular, so the sequences actually carry you around your mat 360 degrees in both directions. Because of this, mandala sequences tend to be very fluid, which is very therapeutic for lubricating and strengthening the joints – particularly the hips and shoulders. Moving in this circular fashion also encourages more core engagement, so mandalas can be wonderful at helping to improve core strength and overall muscle definition.
Mandalas also provide you with a wonderful lesson that you can take with you off the mat, which is that it’s OK to break away from your preconceived notions and try something new. Most of us aren’t used to moving on our mats in the circular form of mandalas, so it may feel strange to enter a pose from a direction or angle we aren’t used to. Give it a try…you may end up loving the way it makes your joints feel, or the way it makes your focus change. If you can take that lesson with you off the mat, you may discover that switching things up just a bit in some other area of your life may prove to be the best thing you’ve ever done. The opportunities are endless if we can take a moment to be open to new experiences. You never know what extraordinary thing may be awaiting you if you just switch it up. So who’s with me?