Angles in yoga and other practice

Alternate angles

Alternate angles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Practice is all about angles.  Yoga practice, writing practice, piano practice: it doesn’t matter in this way. The internal angles, the angles you can only feel and guide by breathing and longing, those are the angles you are refining, mobilizing, stabilizing and freeing.

Too often we think our yoga practice is about angles of arms, legs, torsos, and the usual adjustments really encourage this. Not the adjustments’ – or the adjusters’! – fault though. It is important that the lower side body not collapse in Triangle, just to the lower hand to the ground. It is vital that the knee not knock inward in Warrior I and II. These are important angles, and ones some forget to check if there’s no one to lightly touch the lower rib cage or ask them to press their outer knee into their hand.

But we give too much credence to these angles and adjustments when we keep going to those classes and listening to voices outside our own. Those angles are the way in, the signposts for another kind of sensing, one we can only do when our practice is ours alone.

And the paradoxical, terrifyingly beautiful magic of it all is that when we close the door, settle into that first Mountain or Vajrasana, however we’re meeting ourselves on the mat today, and claim our practice for our own, we are so deeply held and anything but all alone. Try it. I’ll meet you there.

Pairwise perpendicular angles 1

Pairwise perpendicular angles 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does DIYoga mean I don’t need a teacher?

DIYoga – or Do it (yourself) Yoga – is my take on the home practice of yoga. I’ve practiced indoors, outdoors, in the desert, under

A yoga class.

A yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

trees, in the snow at 20 below and in August desert heat. I’ve practiced through chronic pain, before and after hip replacement surgery, through miscarriage and on many crazy blissful days. I’ve been dedicated to teachers, I’ve gone without teachers, I’ve dabbled in styles and am a repeat subscriber to yoga video websites.

There’s no way you can do ALL of that with a teacher. Unless, maybe, you’re Julia Roberts. I’m guessing she can tote a yoga teacher around with her. But even if you could retain a teacher to be by your side through thick and thin – another person, that is – what would you be missing?

You’d be missing the moments that make us all uncomfortable: the quiet moments between poses or before you get started when you are wholly and utterly naked to yourself (figuratively). You’d be missing the opportunity to do what you keep thinking of doing in class: hold that pose a little longer, or follow it with that awesome pose your body is just calling for… but the teacher has another (also awesome) thing in mind, so you go there. You’d be missing out on listening to the wisdom of your own body.

So, do you need a teacher? ABSOLUTELY. Several. Ideally you find an in person teacher near where you live and work and you visit them regularly. Until you’ve internalized their kindness. And then keep going. But even if you have this (and many people in less populous places don’t – I know, hard to believe in the yoga saturated world, 2012), the authentic teacher is your own deepest instinct and wisdom combined. Instinct is a reminder of your already beautiful being; wisdom is the accumulation of experience peeling back the layers over that light. You need occasional substitute teachers to remind you that the teacher really is within, and that the kindness and wisdom you appreciate in “your” teacher isn’t patented by them. And sometimes you just need to shake it up.


Do you need a yoga teacher?

So DIY your yoga! Bring your practice home and discover your practice. Yoga is about inclusion, so it’s not “either-or.” But remember that your teacher isn’t yoga. You have to find that yourself.