In yoga, as in other activities, there are words and expressions which teachers use regularly that are a bit specialist and which might not be used much elsewhere -‘yoga jargon’ if you like.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I was teaching 121 yoga and I used the expression, ‘Float in and out of the posture’, meaning, ‘Don’t hold postures for too long- just keep moving’, and this was met with a raised eyebrow and the question, ‘What does that mean?’
It is good to be reminded sometimes to try to use vocabulary that everyone understands and not to take meaning for granted.
One instruction that is used quite a lot by yoga teachers to members of their class is, ‘Listen to the body.’ When I first started yoga years ago, my teacher often reminded us of that, but at the time I didn’t really understand the concept.
Listening to the body is a useful reminder as it means looking after yourself and trusting your intuition. It doesn’t mean not doing yoga at all when you are feeling lethargic or stressed, but it does mean respecting and doing the best you can for your body.
It is useful to start off a yoga practice checking in with yourself-noticing how you feel physically which might include aches and pains, injuries, energy levels (tired, buzzing or somewhere in between) -also state of mind (agitated, active, calm and so on.) It might seem a rather odd thing to do but in this way you can start to develop a practice which suits you, rather than doing something that might not be right for you just because the teacher tells you to do it in a particular way, or because the person next to you is doing this.
You may need to modify or adapt or miss something out. You may need to keep your practice gentle or, conversely, make it more challenging.
Once a few years ago I started to attend a training course for teachers at a yoga school in London and was amazed to come across so many yoga teachers with injuries-shoulder problems, knee and hip injuries -the list was endless. On reflection it was probably because people were pushing themselves and striving too hard, rather than taking the time to stand back a little and trust their body wisdom.
Although our society is very competitive, yoga allows you time to just be you and who you are. Creating a harmonious relationship between mind and body is a wonderful way of taking care of yourself.