Rules of the Frame
The rules that govern the relationship between yoga teachers and students also make up a frame. These have to do with the time, place, and length of the class; personal hygiene; the kind of touch used; and the kind of contact teachers and students have between classes. When teachers go way overtime, give aggressive adjustments, or ask students on dates, they are pushing the limits of the frame. And so are students who consistently arrive well past the starting time, wear clothes stinking of last week’s sweat, demand excessive attention, or flirt with their teachers.
Crossing the Line
Since students in a Mysore class go at their own pace—they practice a memorized sequence with occasional help from the teacher—we had ample opportunity to talk during class. When Simon was distracted, I would step up to his mat, stress how hard it is to focus, and encourage him to be present. In doing so, I was trying to put his struggle into words, to show compassion for its magnitude, and to offer him a solution.
At first, it was difficult for Simon to improve his focus, and he was uncomfortable with the feelings that arose during practice. Eventually, he noticed that he was afraid of success, which in yoga meant mastering the postures and the breath. He came to believe that his distraction during class was an unconscious strategy to slow his progress in yoga and therefore avoid the discomfort of succeeding.
Still, Simon continued to concentrate. Over time, he was able to stay present for longer periods. As he slowly became more skilled at the postures, he was able to free himself from the safety of failure. What began as a breach of the frame led to an exploration of Self. The hidden message in Simon’s behavior was at least partly revealed, and he started to allow himself to succeed.