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Seekers and Teachers on Day 10 January 20, 2011

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 21-Day Challenge, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Donate, Fitness, Food, Health, Karma, Karma Yoga, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Music, Philosophy, Science, Texas, Twin Cities, Volunteer, Yoga.
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Day 10

“As the two of us stretched and shared for 90 minutes each morning, I’d get the strangest feeling that there were four of us there, two teachers and two students: me teaching Dolly yoga techniques, Dolly teaching me the value of laughter, spontaneity, nonjudgement, trust – and so much more. Then we’d slip out of our roles and slip into meditation, the four of us becoming two, becoming one.”

– Robbie Williams in an article about teaching yoga to Country & Western musicians (Yoga Journal, Nov-Dec 1984)

We are all seekers; we come to yoga for different reasons. A lot of times we come because we want to fix something – physically, mentally, or emotionally – and either a doctor or someone we admire has recommended yoga. Sometimes we want the practice to be magical, miraculous even – and sometimes it feels like it. Ultimately, however, the desired results come when someone practices a series or a pose, for an extended period of time, without attachment to the outcome.

Lessons about continuous practice (abhyasa) without attachment (vairagya) are found in the Yoga Sutras (I:12 – 15). These lessons are also found in every class room, where the seekers become the teachers. And I’m not just talking about the people who lead the practice; I’m talking about the so-called “students” who come back, again and again, week after week, day after day. The people who inspire others because of their devotion and enthusiasm for the practice, these are the teachers in the room.

The fact that we are all seekers, as well as teachers, was the message from my morning practice and the classes I taught today. The focus was on being guided by the ultimate teacher, the teacher who is within. I could have easily quoted Ranier Maria Rilke for this class, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate the Dolly Lama’s birthday!

I can’t exactly call myself an uber-fan when it comes to Dolly Parton, but I like her and I can’t imagine being in a room with her for two seconds and not smiling. I also can’t imagine being a room with her for two minutes and not laughing. Plus, she’s inspiring. She is unapologetic about where she comes from, what she looks like, or how she sounds. There’s a lesson in that. She believes in having fun and being passionate about something. There’s a lesson in that. She’s also a lesson in giving and in looking within for the answers we seek. That last part is key, because (again) we are our own ultimate teacher. We just have to take the time to do a little self-study.

The videos for days 8, 9, and 10 of the Yoga Journal 21-Day Challenge were the same sequences presented on the first three days of the challenge. Repeating sequences is great opportunity to turn inward, do that little bit of self-studying, and note how the sequences felt this week compared to last week. For anyone keeping track, it’s interesting to note how other activities affect the way we feel while practicing the asanas. Last week, for instance, I did a lot of upper body work and some fairly intense core work in my classes. I also meditated and ate after the practice. When I got to Rebecca Urban’s core sequence on the evening of Day 3, I appreciated it, but I barely felt it. This week, I had fewer classes and the sequence I taught (and practiced) had a little more intense arm balancing. Most of the abdominal work came from laughing – which means the 60-minute class got more than me or the 45-minute class. Also, I ate dinner several hours before I meditated and then practicing with the video. The end result? This week I really felt it.

Again, I’m looking forward to repeating this sequence – and maybe putting it together with another sequence. (I have it on good authority that Day 11 is different from Day 4, so maybe I’ll wait before I start mixing and matching.) Another thing I’ve noted is that the sequences so far have been very bottom heavy, meaning the emphasis has been on the lower body. Heaven knows it’s great to prepare the hips and legs for deep seated meditation, but more and more I’m noting how intensely engaged my back muscles have to be to hold a seated position for an extended period of time. Even though I see people in my classes, all the time, slumped over while in Sukhasana – and even though I remind them to engage their core muscles (back and front) in order to support a lifted heart – I’ve never been as aware of the engagement in my own mediation practice as I have been this week. Perhaps it’s because I’m meditating more and for longer periods of time. Either way, I’m curious to see how I would feel if I did this core sequence in the early morning and then went directly into my meditation.

I guess there’s only one way to find out. And, in the end, that is the lesson we come back to again and again in yoga: you have to practice, for a continued period of time, without interruption and without attachment.

~ Honor what is within you, and all around you, Namaste ~

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