Saturday, January 28, 2012

Staying On Your Mat (Please) - Day 21

Walk: R/T Mindful Body, teach class, R/T Clay Theater (My Week with Marilyn) Distance: 16 Blocks and Teach

Today in class we worked more specifically/in depth on hips. It was a small class so people had plenty of space - which in and of itself I think has them more relaxed.

As one student said, "No one is going to topple over on me." That hasn't happened in any of my classes, but I know the feeling of working next to someone who appears to have little body awareness. I tend to have a pretty good sense of where body is in relation to the things and people around me - and from what I can observe this is the case with most yoga practitioners (or maybe people in general).

In yoga practice your space is mostly defined by your mat - top, bottom and sides. Your forward and back steps are to the front and back of your mat, and sideways work is done along the edge of your mat. The complicated moments come when you start raising your arms out to the side and up shoulder height to a 'tee' or bending your knee and opening it to the side. Ie, there are times when you must 'negotiate' air space with your neighbor. Again, with a little direction from the teacher, most people do this negotiation easily - staggering their mats back and forth, raising their arms straight ahead instead of out to the side or moving in a different rhythm from their neighbor. Learning how to work your own space, keep your own inner peace and practice in more crowded rooms is actually one of the indirect lessons of yoga, and ultimately it is personally expanding to know you don't need the world to confer an enormous amount of space for you to stay calm and centered. To a great extent these things lie within.

But occasionally there are people who seem to have little or no capacity to negotiate space and/or use their mats to center their activities. For whatever reason there are students who simply will not share space or will fight for space unless the teacher tells them they need to move this way or that to make room for others. These people will tend to come into the room and place their mat far out into the room, then they spread whatever props and personal effects they've brought with them all around them - blanket back and personal effects behind it, strap and blocks way off to the side. When they lie down, they are spread-eagle, legs and arms open. At least four students could practice in the space they have claimed. It's aggressive or intensely defensive, no question about it. I don't say this in a (too) judgmental way; these people could be narcissists or could have histories that include violations of their personal boundaries - or maybe they are just used to and can afford a lot of space.

Then there are those that seem to have little or no body awareness. Some of these people simply cannot stay on their mats. If asked to step back they don't do so directly. Instead of placing their foot straight behind them, they'll step at angle or arc their leg out to the side (and into their neighbor's space) before landing their foot back on their mat. There are many variations of these perhaps chronically physically disoriented people: some do indeed topple off to the side when they come out of poses, others swing their arms around seemingly randomly, others are permanently off balance and seem like unsteady colts ready to topple at any moment. And finally there are some who are what I call physically dyslexic. If I say "lift your left foot," they will shoot their right arm out to the side, or bend their knee, or twist - just about any possibility except lifting their left foot. My experience is that the more I try to correct such a mistake, the more disoriented and anxious the student becomes. When I take and class and such a student practices near me, I too worry someone will 'topple over on me.' Wonder what this being a bit lost in space is all about.

And speaking of working outside of your mat, these tulips were new and standing smartly on their small perch just yesterday. Now its watch out when you walk by!

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