Do you obey what your eyes show you or do you feel your Yoga? Some might say feeling your Yoga is King but as a beginner the reality can be different. Remember it is all relative 🙂 and I am teaching a beginning Yoga class.  I will write about ‘feeling’ your Yoga, but right now I want to focus on ‘SEEING’ your Yoga.  As a beginner ‘Seeing’ your Yoga is essential and the Mirrors are a tool BEST USED.

Have you ever tried to practice your Yoga blindfolded? Well I have. I can tell you it is funny. You TRAVEL!  No matter how accurate your proprioceptors are, in our room full of mirrors where you are making specific/conscious moves you must EMPLOY YOUR VISION as your primary sensory aid to tell you where your body is in space; especially when you are new to the moves.  As a newbie if you rely on ‘feeling’ the set ups/posture your body will undoubtedly want to take the path of least resistance and you may not end up with the ideal or safest foundation.

There are of course Pros/Cons to visuals.  CONS?? Surely not in a post promoting visuals?, well, here are a few examples for you to mull over that demonstrate we tend to obey what our eyes show us over what we ‘hear’ (or in some cases ‘don’t’ hear) even to wrong effect.

  1. Standing Separate Leg Stretching – Earlier this year in a Darren class: he had NOT instructed us to take step to the right but out of my peripheral vision I saw someone take the step. My sight/their movement overrode for that second and I (and another student) took a step; before my foot had landed I realised Daz hadn’t given any verbal instruction to step and I quickly drew my foot back. TOO LATE. Another two peeps near us went with the visual we had created. SYNERGY LOST.
  2. As referred to in previous post flourishes/extras are catching. For the purpose of this post they can also be classed as ‘visuals’. One little extra that crops up frequently is new students wanting to add in a cat/dog type stretch (a brief stop off in a childs pose type posture) before the last back bend at the end of Spine Strengthening sequence (After ‘Bow’ just before ‘Fixed Firm’). I now have to add in the extra instruction NOT to do this because very quickly it will be most of the room doing it because they caught a visual of one person doing it. I have to add in the instruction NOT to do it which means I also often have to add in the reassurance for the doubting glances that they WILL get what they consider to be their essential counterpose in the next posture; extra instructions because of the overriding power of visuals; I would much rather not to have to expend energy on this and to give more useful instruction instead but it has become a necessary part of the instruction to prevent the class going off form/method. {I will expand in another blog sometime about the idea of counterposes and how the Bikram prescriptive method should not be interfered with but briefly: The practitioners in question are not at the stage where they realise that actually ‘pausing at best neutral’ is exactly all they need ‘counter wise’ after what they have just done; they appear to have a deep rooted belief that creating an EXTRA shape/posture immediately after the backward bend they have just done is some sort of necessary for their body; they have seen the childs pose done elsewhere OR are copying that person they just saw do it that had seen it done elsewhere OR they have heard it talked about as essential elsewhere they think it speeds something up; it has just become an ‘auto’ move, a habit, but sometimes when people are new to backward bending or to Bikram method they think they need more than just ‘neutral’ because of some past experience or not understanding the process) but one should never launch from a backward bend into a forward bend in Yogasana. One should always pause at neutral; perhaps they are not ready to trust the process yet.}
  3. I no longer demonstrate Rabbit posture. I have personal unique body trait that shows up big style in this posture and whilst I go about Rabbit the proper way/right technique and always do my best in it; the result is not a ‘textbook’ visual; I did demonstrate in early days of teaching but I believe students tried to emulate my distortion and this became one perfect example of the ‘never teach from your own body’ rule. If I feel a Rabbit demonstration necessary now I ask a student to do it.

Do you see what I mean? Visuals override EVERY time.

HOWEVER. 🙂 The PROS outweigh these minor issues; Alignment and form are the tools that help us get the correct THERAPEUTIC effect of the postures but how you look and how you feel can be two very different things e.g. the act of standing straight may vary in individuals and some may need to be seriously improved upon in cases of postural neglect.  In such cases your body may want to take the path of least resistance when you are new and so you have to consciously set yourself into foundations that may feel ‘odd’ at first and not at all natural because of the possible ‘years’ spent nurturing poor postural habits. Remember you only get 90 minutes in the studio; 22.5 hours outside… Aside from looking down at your own body the mirrors really are the BEST TOOL to help get the right set up and develop good postural awareness.

The mirror surround at YM enables you to check form, be more precise and develop those new conscious BETTER postural habits.  Over time as you become increasingly familiar with this newer better alignment for your unique body and you will increase control / naturalness over the better form and incorporate that learned stance into your system of unconscious muscle control. Retraining your muscles to HOLD your skeletal in a more optimal alignment starts with you making micro changes in your posture set ups and trying to HOLD the better form for longer each time.  START TODAY.  Gradually you will shift from a place of seeing all that needs changing in your posture to seeing ALL THAT IS RIGHT with your posture.

Om Om Om Looky Looky

Namaste, Trisha