Monday, March 29, 2010

Stand By For Hugs

My favorite lesson from teacher training last year is the one we learned during the first fifteen minutes of the first day.

We were all a little nervous, I think, at least I know I was. Here was a group of accomplished yoga practitioners and teachers ranging in age from 22 to 60, from Toronto, London, New York City, Los Angeles, Aspen, Whistler, B.C., Mexico. Oh, and Washington Island, Wisconsin.

After introductions, our teacher asked us to come into Tadasana, Mountain Pose. Beginning with the feet, he cued our alignment, asking us to rock forward and back from heel to toes, feeling for equal and balanced weight distribution with all four corners of the soles as we quieted the motion. Then a slight lift of the inner arches, the sensation of the calves pressing forward as the thighs pressed back, the tailbone drawn forward to the pubis as the navel and low ribs drew back into the spine.

He then asked us to gently tilt our heads forward and backchin towards chest, then back of the head toward shoulder bladesuntil the head found its balanced center on top of the cervical spine. Add broadened chests, fingernails magnetized to the earth and deep, Ujjayi inhale and exhales, and I doubt there were eight better-looking mountains that side of Rockies.

Then, for the first of many, many, many times, our teacher took our mountains and moved them. He walked up to a lovely, experienced, Iyengar-trained classmate who stood with beautiful balance and symmetry, so perfect, so...stiff, and hugged her. He hooked his chin over her shoulder and wrapped his arms around her, bear-hug style. He stood that way for at least a minute. I watched her eyes mist and her face soften. Then he stepped back and smiled. She hadn’t moved a muscle, not one muscle, but she was soft and open and happy. And standing in Tadasana for the first time.

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