Today's Daily Tip
Force vs. Feeling
Remind your students that true yoga is not a competition with anyone else, not even with one's self. We do not get a prize for doing a pose well. Remind them that when they feel and create a small movement, it is far better for their nervous system than when they force and create a big movement.
As teachers, we must ensure that our students work intensely, yet without force. We generally think that working intensely is working forcefully, but this is not the case. Force is the opposite of true intensity. We force when we are not present in the body, not listening, not aware, but just working blindly.
When a student is straining to open his hamstrings, you can take the opportunity to teach a deeper lesson. Remind him that his hamstring resist because they are not familiar with opening. When we forcefully yank them open, how is that different from forcefully imposing our beliefs onto others who have opposing beliefs? Feeling develops sensitivity and acceptance of an opposing viewpoint.
When you see a student pushing as hard as she can, immediately ask her questions that require her to tune in and feel her body. Ask, "What are you feeling just now? Can you feel the weight on your feet? How much weight is there on your fingertips?" Even something as simple as feeling a physical action will move her away from forcing. Tell your students to watch their breath as they do the poses, for this helps reduce forcing and invites the spirit into the body.
When demonstrating a pose for your students, illustrate the difference between a pose done with force and a pose done with feeling. Grit your teeth, clench your jaw, knit your brow, purse your lips, and tighten your body with grim determination, completing the pose by puffing out your chest with false pride. Then demonstrate the pose from the serene quietness of inner awareness. If you exaggerate in this way, the ensuing laughter will release tension and reduce the somber mood of an intensely focused practice. Such a comical display also gives students an indirect way of laughing at their own pretentiousness and egoistic aspirations. The clowning around has a higher purpose—to help others see the divinity they deny.
I remind my students to keep everything in perspective, to remember that the body is only a temporary phenomenon, and that the reason for yoga is to embrace that which is permanent: the spirit. Being violent toward the body repels the spirit. Remind your students to gaze toward their heart centers and make the asana practice an expression of the divinity within, rather than a violent display of ego. Encourage them to always be able to watch what they are doing in a detached way, with an inner smile.
In yoga, we strive to become more aware of ourselves—our bodies, minds, feelings, emotions, our very nature—because the more aware we are, the more we are able to make correct decisions and avert future pain. Yet, our usual way is to get angry when a situation arises that is not to our liking. Anger, which is violence, is the opposite of awareness, which is feeling. In yoga, we move away from violence and anger, moving toward awareness and feeling.