H’s a nice Australian yoga teacher who came over to teach. How do I know he’s Aussie? Occasionally he comes to class in a singlet with "Australia" printed straight across the back. No one but an Aussie will wear a shirt like quite so unabashedly; feels like someone stuck a "Kick Me" note on his back.
Now, H. is a nice, funny guy who also happens to be a good yoga teacher. He has a slacker-dude sense of humour that I appreciate. His humour and chatter lifts the mood of his classes – important when your muscles are burning from holding the pose.
Last Saturday was Power Yoga 1 with H. Personally I find Power Yoga more demanding as I lack upper body strength. Last Saturday we were supposed to do Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose). As you can see from the picture, it requires strength in the arms, shoulders and thighs: the areas of the body that I have yet to develop. Baron Baptiste calls it "one of the most powerful poses in yoga practice" – and he meant it.
H. understood not everyone is ready for it, and explained we do not have to try it if we are not ready. The first rule of yoga is Awareness. Be aware of yourself. Know your limits – when to surrender, when to push a little further.
I attempted the Wheel Pose that day. H. saw what I was doing, and he told me to stay down; I was not ready to go up.
When the class prepared to do the Wheel Pose for the second time. H. came over. He asked me to hold his ankles, to give me a better leverage in the arm-lifts. He assisted me in a modified version of Wheel Pose. I was grateful.
Later, addressing the class, H. reminded us that not everyone is ready for all the postures. But he will always allow us the choice to surrender or to attempt the asana. We make the choice. At the end of the day, it is our own practice.
I first learnt yoga more than three years ago in a crowded gym studio. I did yoga 3~4 times every week for more than a year. M, the yoga teacher, was a wound-up core of sheer yogic stamina. Her classes were demanding - and her battle-axe personality was intimidating. She pushed her students, sometimes shouting at them from across the room. I persisted, and because of her I grew stronger. We did Wheel Pose every Thursday. Didn’t matter if you can’t, you just try. If for no other reason, you tried because M was so scary. Then one day, I lifted.
I still remember the first time I went up in a Wheel Pose: The thrilling sensation of power as I pushed my body higher. I wanted to stay in the pose for a long time. My body was light, liberated.
In Urdhva Dhanurasana, I felt like I could fly.
Then I quit the gym. Without the regular yoga practice, I lost the muscular strength. And I couldn’t do the Wheel Pose last Saturday.
But in all that time at the gym, I have never felt so supported and safe - as I did last Saturday in H’s class.
I am grateful to H. – that he saw I was not strong enough, yet supported me in my struggling endeavour. I will continue working at my practice. I will continue to try the challenging poses. And I know H. will watch over me as I explore. I am grateful for a teacher that makes me feel safe.
Most of all, I want to fly again.