Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: experience

The Sceptical Yoga Teacher

sceptical yoga teacherIs it possible to be a sceptical yoga teacher?

When I tell people I teach yoga, they make a lot of assumptions about me. And, to be fair, I do fit some of the stereotypes. My wardrobe does mainly consist of yoga leggings and sports bras, I do (try to) meditate every day and I am probably more flexible than the average person. But I also love science, I’m passionate about logical, rational arguments and I have a physics degree. So frankly, I die a little inside when I hear yogis referencing quantum mechanics, as if the very mention of quantum entanglement provides empirical evidence for every new age concept out there.

This is not because I don’t think yogis should talk about science. I love talking about science. I think everyone should talk more about science. But discussing concepts you don’t understand with the assumed authority of someone who does is a misuse of physics and undermines the credibility of what many describe as the “science of yoga.”

I have a similar reaction when people grasp onto alternative forms of medicine as if because they’re “natural” they must work. Don’t get me wrong, I think the western medical system has plenty of flaws, and I’m a big believer in exploring other options. For example, I think we can learn a lot from the holistic approach of systems such as Ayurveda, where they look at the whole person rather than treating symptoms. But that’s not to say that these ancient systems have all the answers, and because they are on some “spiritual plane”, they are above investigation. “Alternative” medicine can and should be tested just as rigorously as anything else.

What I find most strange is when people suggest that you can’t be “spiritual” or into yoga unless you suspend all analytical thought. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to discuss ideas with someone from the yoga community only for any questions I have to be met with, “But science can’t explain everything.” Perhaps not, but does that mean we should just hold our hands up, fall at the feet of the nearest guru and accept everything we’re told without question? To me that seems like a pretty dangerous path to follow.

I don’t think the barriers that people (on both sides of the fence as it were) put up between yoga, spirituality and science are necessary or helpful. Ultimately, everyone is seeking the truth and greater understanding, but approaching it from different angles. Surely the greatest growth comes when we learn from other fields, rather than disregarding them because their approach is different to our own?

A meditation teacher of mine used to say, “You don’t have to leave your intellect at the door,” and I loved this expression. I’ve always taken this to mean that you can have both. You can immerse yourself in yoga and meditation, and let thinking take a back seat for a while in order to drop into the experience of something. But it’s also ok to question things, try to work them out for yourself, and maintain a healthy scepticism when faced with so-called gurus making sweeping statements without backing them up. In short, I think it’s perfectly possible to be a sceptical yoga teacher. 

I’d love to know what your experiences are of this – let me know in the comments below?

Have a lovely day, and Merry Christmas everyone!

Jade xxx

 

To be alive is to be vulnerable

Be Vulnerable“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

Madeleine L’Engle

I’d like to know whether other people find their experiences on their yoga mats echo their experiences in life as often as mine seem to? This morning, in yoga class, I was practising wide-legged standing forward fold. This is a posture I am used to, and when the teacher gave us the option to lift up into tripod headstand, I moved my hands to lift up in the way I always do. She came over to me.

“No, keep your hands where they were.” She then held my hips clearly expecting me to lift into headstand from this strange position.

I panicked. Is she crazy? I can’t lift from here. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never even seen someone do a headstand like this. What if I fall? And so on.

But somehow, my body ignored my mind’s agitation, and I felt my legs lift into the strangest, most exhilarating headstand I’ve ever done. My teacher stayed with me the whole time, letting me find my balance, and the more I surrendered and trusted her, the safer I felt. When my feet made it back safely to the ground, I was buzzing. I felt like I could take on the world.

It reminded me of a similar experience earlier this week. I rode on the back of a friend’s motorbike for the first time. I hadn’t expected to find this scary – I’ve been on the back of scooters lots of times. It turns out I’d slightly underestimated the difference between motorbikes and scooters. As the speed picked up, I went from casually holding on to clinging on as if my life depended on it. Which to be fair, it did. I felt terrifyingly vulnerable. In that moment I hated my friend for their confidence and speed.

But then I remembered something. I remembered that people love this. That they get a thrill from it. I was on the most beautiful road, with nothing separating me from the view, going so fast it felt like I was flying. I didn’t even have to worry about riding. I could literally relax and enjoy it, if I chose to. All I had to do was surrender my need to be in control and trust my friend.

And so I did. I mentally (not physically – I’m not stupid) let go and surrendered control. I chose to enjoy the experience instead of fighting it. I realised how rarely I do this. How hard I find it to put my trust in someone else and hand over control to them.

Because it means being vulnerable. To trust someone is to give them the power to hurt you. But I know that by refusing to let myself be vulnerable I hold myself back. I miss out on beautiful new experiences that I can’t have on my own.

Just as importantly, I’m not giving others the trust and credit they deserve. My yoga teacher would not encourage me to try something unless she knew she could stop me from falling. Similarly my friend would not risk my life for the sake of a motorbike ride.

Just because someone can hurt you doesn’t mean they will. In fact, it’s most likely they won’t. And I think life is considerably better – richer, more beautiful, more exciting and fulfilling when you let yourself to be vulnerable. I just need to keep remembering that.  I’ll take it one headstand at a time…

Love, Jade

P.S. For more on how to be vulnerable, and why it’s worth it, check out this fantastic TED talk from Brene Brown.

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