on yoga

It took me only about two minutes of yoga class to realize that I don’t need to write about yoga class.* Writing about it right here and now, just a couple hours after class, is paradoxically what I need to do to give the experience justice and explain why I should stop writing about it.

The reasons I went to yoga were three-fold:

  1. I could really stand to do some yoga, something I realize in multiple places, including dance class and running. I can’t even sit comfortably on the floor with my legs crossed. It makes other people uncomfortable to watch me try.
  2. Brad, a dear colleague, mentor, and friend, teaches the class. This gave me a chance to see him, and the whole notion of yoga feels more approachable when it’s taught by someone as affable and comfortable as Brad.
  3. I thought that this could be another mode of teaching and learning that really deserves study.

That last point, that there’s something to be learned and worthy of documenting about Brad’s yoga class, is absolutely true. But it took me only those first two minutes to realize that I shouldn’t be doing this because I’d miss out on the actual experience (see point #1). Brad directed us through initial breathing and a refocusing of our selves to get the class started. I couldn’t do this and take mental notes; and I’m certainly not going to roll over and start scratching down quotes and observations on my notepad. I need to return to yoga over and over and take those practices home with me because I think it could help my body in a long overdue kind of way. It will help my running. It will help my psyche. The last thing I should do is spoil it by overthinking what’s going on.

I’ll close my exhaustive inquiry into yoga instruction with just these observations that I think are important. In fact, they’re probably the reasons why I’ll return:

  1. I could walk into this yoga class with zero knowledge of what was going on but with little apprehension. The first reason for this was because of the trust I have in Brad, both as a person and as an instructor. He’s given me advice as a faculty member and as a teacher that I live out daily, and that leads me to feel completely at ease when he tells me to reach back and pull my foot into some wholly unnatural position for me. It also helps that Brad is informal and easy going, and I’ve noticed that students in physics and yoga are comfortable in approaching him, asking questions, and just generally being relaxed in his presence. There’s a sense of calm and welcoming, and you get the impression that he accepts and likes all people as they are.
  2. The second reason I could feel comfortable on a yoga mat was because there was almost no instruction that required any background knowledge beyond distinguishing right from left.* Terms were all familiar, and even the poses were described not by how they should look, but by what action I needed to take. “Put your weight into your left foot.” “Extend your right hand up to the ceiling.” “Feel the stretch in your inner forearms — this is good for people who work on a computer a lot.” It was a good example of how an expert should communicate to a novice, and that’s something that I see as critical in lots of other venues I’ve been observing over the last few months (dressage for adult humans and their horses, dance for college students, authentic science experiences for eighth graders, etc.).
  3. I enjoyed being there; others enjoyed being there; the instructor enjoyed being there. It was hard work, something I’m still feeling the effects of hours later and something I’m confident I’ll continue to feel tomorrow morning. But being “hard” and being “fun” aren’t exclusive, and a place where someone is telling you to do something that sounds like a cross between Twister and an unlawful interrogation technique, but ends up feeling good, is a good example of this. It’s similar to a good physics class in this way.

I’m sure there’s more to write about yoga instruction. And I’m sure that I shouldn’t try to do it. But I’ll go back. Namaste.

*I do need to write more about other things I’ve been doing. Those drafts are piled up in a mess of field notes and essay drafts, slowly filtering their way up through my sense-making.
**Incidentally, I think it’s amazing that we’re capable of keeping that straight, as well as east and west.