January 18, 2021
Listening and Yoga
What does yoga mean to you? This is a question I often ask students in my classes. It could be as simple as “yoga makes me feel comfortable in my skin” or “it’s a time for quieting down my mind” or even “to move my body, breathe, and dance” to name a few.
What’s interesting is that if you check-in with this question every year you will notice that it changes. Maybe just slightly or maybe a whole lot. What yoga means to me has taken on different forms throughout the years but the phase I’ve been in the longest is “through listening, yoga reveals my path.”
As a beginner student, I couldn’t follow the words in a yoga class to save my life. I would rely on the people in the room so much that often I was paying zero attention to the teacher. I was convinced I had ADHD and that I just wasn’t meant to be a good listener in that environment.
Then one day I showed up to a class and promised myself I wouldn’t open my eyes until after shavasana, no matter what! It was a difficult experience physically, but I stayed engaged the whole practice and the meditation after was beyond anything I had experienced thus far. Bingo!
This opened my eyes (figuratively) to the arsenal of benefits that yoga has to offer. I began to notice a difference with my ability to listen. I started practicing conscious listening in yoga classes as a student and as a result I was becoming a better listener in life.
This evolved to becoming more in tune with myself, being more consistently present, and feeling empathy for those willing to be vulnerable. I began studying Krichnamacharya’s teachings of Inhale/Feminine (receptivity) and Exhale/Masculine (strength) which helped me understand the philosophy behind what I was experiencing.
Naturally, listening has become the trademark to my teaching style. At first, I started guiding classes as though the students were blindfolded. My cueing needed to be clear, precise, and simple for this to be possible.
I would introduce myself in the beginning noting that this experience would be similar to following a book on tape (mp3 might be a better analogy these days) and encouraged those in the class to focus in on their breath and the words.
After developing this craft for several years, I began using inquiry prompts to engage the willing students on a deeper, more emotional level. Several times I’ve had my classes described as a deep meditative flow that makes you feel like you’re floating in shavasana.
What I love the most about yoga is that it’s endless. The more you practice the more you discover, and the more you discover, the more you have to share. So, I ask you. What does yoga mean to you?
Below are some recommended practices to explore this topic further: