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The Yoga of Inclusion

July 2, 2012

Since moving to San Francisco, I don’t feel like a part of much. My mom asked me the other day who I was going to lunch with and I told her, “duh Mom, I don’t have any friends. I’m obviously going to lunch by myself.” Pathetic as it seems, the once gregarious social butterfly has been crudely reduced to the solitary kid holding it down by her lonesome at the corner lunch table.

It is my personal belief that humans are total pack animals and that we’re generally looking for some level of inclusion and assimilation. I’ll tell you for sure that this particular human is longing for her many compadres that she left behind in Brooklyn. Feeling like you’re on the outside of the joke is definitely uncomfortable for the majority of people, and yet, sometimes I feel like this even happens in a yoga class.

I can’t say how many times I’ve been to an “open” level class that includes some of the hardest poses, or assumes the pace of an olympic sprinter. I’m 27 years old and am in generally good health and I’m a yoga teacher – this stuff is even challenging for me. From years of observation I can safely say that most people are not acrobats, carni-folk or even skilled athletes. Push ups are very hard for most people, especially people inhabiting the female body structure – we’re just not built that way. Knees and backs often give people a whole fun variety of troubles. For teachers to assume that people they have no prior knowledge of will benefit from hanumanasana (fancy name for a split) is beyond my comprehension. And you know what is worse than this presumption? The fact that almost EVERYONE in a class with such poses will make an earnest attempt to get into them. I have been this person (but my unattainable pose is kurmasana, among others) and I’m willing to bet that most people that have been to a yoga class have too.

Unless, lucky for you, you’re an already perfectly formed and enlightened human being (I am not) then you probably feel social awkwardness and possible humiliation from time to time. You also feel peer pressure, and competition. I don’t think that these should be present in the yoga room, if possible. It’s hard to formulate the thought, completely, that I’m kicking around here but I’m almost feeling like these really hard poses should never be taught in a group class. Even if you called it “impossible pose” class then you would still have people showing up there thinking they could “hang in there” and in reality they’re completely on another planet as far as ability goes. The minute the teacher of an “open” level group class offers a hard variation almost half of the room seems to leave the relative comfort and function of the prior pose to try their hand at something they’re just not ready for. It almost seems like the proper venue for contortionist style poses is either a private lesson, or a home practice. There, and perhaps only there, can it be a constructive learning experience that builds focus, attention, endurance, strength and dedication. Otherwise, it just seems like the “look at me show.”

Don’t get me wrong, complicated poses serve a purpose. They are fun, for one and they can show discipline and build confidence for those lacking…but  frequently, I think that they’re application is somehow misguided.  Ok, rant concluded…sort of.

Recently, I ended a month long exploration of the offerings of Yoga Tree. They were expansive beyond my ability to get there and try them all out, but I was able to gather a few very different experience there. A few teachers that I practiced with, were something of facilitators for the above rant. When I go to a yoga class I don’t want to go to an exclusive club, wait behind the velvet rope for hours, only to eventually resort to bribing the rather unfriendly bouncer and still be turned away. I want to go to tree house; organic, breezy and not even possessing of a door . There was at the least, one very lovely teacher at Yoga Tree, running her classes with a beautiful and somewhat rare principal of inclusion.  Jean Mazzei‘s class was an immediate draw to me because she studied the BMC technique, which I find to be oh-so-good. She is teaching two classes at Yoga Garden, and one of them is called Ageless Yoga. I figured, from the name, that it would be populated by septo-genarians. And, in part, it was…but somehow this was even more appealing to me. The class had a definite feeling of community, complete with people of all ages, sizes and shapes. Everyone introduced themselves, if not just to be friendly, then for the benefit of a visually impaired student. The class itself wasn’t even easy, but the difference was that the class was being taught on a very general level so that everyone could access and work to their own unique edge. Jean is also funny and open, which I think makes everyone feel instantly comfortable, and like they can shed some of their own self consciousness. My training is a path toward yoga therapy, so I’m happy to see classes  being taught this way. I also think, that if most people could step out of their egos they would probably prefer such methods also. (Pardon my gross generalizing,  not everyone with the ability to do advanced postures is an ego maniac…but a lot are!)

Look, I’m just saying, ego mania isn’t really a good group activity. Now, if  you’ll excuse me, I need to go and practice my pinca mayurasana. ciao for now, lovelies.

[image: photos]

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 2, 2012 6:09 pm

    Great picture!

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