4:30am. Here we go. This is what I came for… err rather what I thought I came for. I signed up for Tim Miller’s two week Ashtanga primary series teacher training that began last saturday. I was prepared to learn and excited to be a student again without the distractions of teaching, kids, family, etc.
I’ve heard many times from all my teachers that it’s necessary, even a pre-requisite to be a student before you can be a teacher. I’ve always considered myself a student… open and willing to learn and see where I may be lacking and where I can grow. But this morning, I discovered this about myself… humbled even.
On the second day I had the opportunity to observe Tim lead a second series class. I was in awe by the art and grace of the practice and how every student was moving so effortlessly through the postures but at the same time their unwavering gaze, rhythmic breathing, and complete dedication left me feeling kinda inadequate. I found myself comparing and doubting my abilities and why I couldn’t do some of those poses yet even though I have a consistent practice and feel I am just as dedicated as they are. The list of coulds, shoulds, and whys went on and on.
The second day left me feeling inspired but yet defeated at the same time as if all the years of practicing and practicing didn’t get me anywhere but here I was calling myself a “student.” I was ready to learn… how I was going to do those poses, what I needed to engage, what I needed to strengthen, what I needed to stretch. I just wanted someone to tell me what I needed to do to deepen my practice… advance my poses.
And then it happened… Mysore practice the next morning. No, I didn’t get into those coveted poses. I fell.. not on my face or my bum, but literally in the sense of giving up, in the sense of surrendering, in the sense of beginning again… FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.
For the first time in a long time, I felt like a new student… like the first time my friend dragged me to a yoga class. And like the first time, I hated it. It hurt. It took forever to go through the sequence and damn those jump throughs and ankle twisting joint killing knee in lotus position. Gah!!! It was exactly like the first time I took my first Ashtanga class 5 years ago and never went back to. And here I am taking a 2 week training. WTF!!
I was trying to get into Marichyasana D variation and Tim comes over, smiles and shakes his head. Clearly I was struggling. Couldn’t get my knee to the floor let alone try to bind my arms behind. He comes behind me. Attempts to adjust me but apparently I was trying to resist it. Haha! “Let go,” he says. So I relax my knee. Then he tries to get me into a bind and says, “give me your arm. let it go” in a very “trust me” voice as if he heard me thinking “uh Tim, my arms won’t bend like that.” I had no choice but to give him my arm. He grabs it, internally rotates my shoulder, bends my elbow, and pulls my arm behind. “Here, grab your other wrist,” he says.
I was left in a crazy looking pretzel, in awe of myself and my limiting belief that I couldn’t get into the pose. That’s when I realized that being a student isn’t enough. You can learn the pose and how to align the body, but learning it is different than surrendering to it. A beginner’s mind requires much more than being a student, it requires you to be a student that surrenders and approaches the moment not knowing anything about the pose, the practice, or the experience that you’re gonna have.