I recently had a very interesting, emotional and rather intense conversation with a new student to yoga. I am always amazed at what happens when someone discovers how wonderful, difficult, satisfying and scary it can be to dedicate time and effort to their own wellbeing by starting a yoga practice and ultimately improving ones self can be.
In this conversation, it was brought to my attention that this particular person had and still has with a few months of yoga practice under their belt, a very limited view of what yoga is and what it currently means to them. Which is absolutely okay.
Discovered through encouragement to "just give it a try". "Let's start with just trying to stretch, breathe and be in the moment", I said to him, when he hesitating to even give yoga a try. At first, met with a bit of resistance, but with time, a full hands-on assisted practice, guided breathing cues, gentle encouragement and some key comfort when things became difficult, we got through it. "Now,...keep practicing on your own with what we've done and do it as often as you can". I said this thinking that it might just not take, but it did and he did. I'm so glad.
Fast forward several months and then our conversation takes place. "I love the stretching. I do it each day and I feel so great, but the breathing stuff, it's just not for me". When he said this, I had to hide my shock and dismay from my face. I was momentarily crushed. I had no idea this would happen. What had I done wrong? It took me a few minutes to unravel and re-adjust. There is sooooo much power in the breath (I think this part is really difficult for a lot of people)
I had done nothing wrong.
He just wasn't ready for the level of connection between body movement and pranayama. Hmmm, I began to think and tried to re-inforce how important the breathing piece is to a yoga practice. Stretching only does so much. I then replied, "The power is in the breath, this is where the magic happens". How about next time we practice together we move together and I'll lead you with the breathing as we move?" It dawned on me that I had showed him the postures and I had told him when to breathe and guided him where to try and connect the breath, but he hadn't made a deeper connection yet. Vinyasa maybe our next step.
We continued on in our conversation and what he said next shocked me and this is where my alarm bells rang. "How is yoga going to help me in my every day life, in my job, when I have this scenario happen and its dangerous and my life is in danger?" He prompts a little upset. To which I'm sure a horrified look came upon my face. I wasn't sure what to say. My immediate fall to in my mind is based on 3 decades of yoga practice, to immediately breath, slow down, take a moment, then move forward whether in thought or action. I thought to myself in that moment, why doesn't he understand that yoga has EVERYTHING to do with everyday life, stressful and even dangerous situations? How is it possible? Then it dawned on me... my experience is not his. We are all individuals with different understanding, awareness, abilities, strengths and weaknesses - these things all come together to build what we know, what we think we understand and what makes our own reality. I then had to reply to him. "I have no idea how I would respond in a dangerous situation, until I was in it, truly." "Yoga has taught me discipline, focus, concentration, connection, skills for ease and calming, it has essentially re-wired my brain to be better prepared for whatever happens. I'm unsure how else to explain. I am who I am because I practice yoga. If I didn't practice, I likely would have knocked somebody off by now! Seriously, it has changed my life and my ability to deal with EVERYTHING!"
To this, his reply is "What? How does stretching do all that?" At this point, I'm a bit deflatted and unsure how to explain or what to say. How do you explain what yoga has done to me, for me and with me over the years? The only answer I can muster at this point, is, "well, let's just keep you practicing and see if we can get your breath moving into and out of your body/mind and go from there....k?
"Sure! he says very quickly. We hug it out and continue on...
I can only hope that he and others like him continue on the yoga path and begin to open their world to going beyond just the movement and allow into their mind, their soul and hopefully realize the jewel that is currently hidden to them.
In health & happiness,