As I have opened myself up in my quest for vulnerability this year and to take something I am passionate about and share it more openly in my adaptive yoga teacher mentoring program, I am asked to look at what I do through a different lens and be open to understanding and learning, while also being confident in myself and what I know to be effective.
Since yoga truly is a practice for daily life and not the ability to touch our toes, I find myself curious how other yoga teachers and/or practitioners view intention. Is having an intention and a plan for the class the same?
For everyone else, is an intention for your day the same as your plan for the day? I don’t think so. I believe we set an intention in our day, or our teaching (example to be present) and our plan may need to adjust according to what shows up in the day or in the yoga session.
I am fairly clear on my intention within a general sense when I am teaching yoga, however we all know that “reading the room” is key. This ability to switch gears in a yoga class is also helpful in life because let’s face it, how many times do we have a plan and we need to change it suddenly. Having this emotional resiliency and ability to be flexible in our minds is a useful tool for everyone.
Here is where my vulnerability was poked yesterday. I had someone observe me yesterday in one of my houses and she asked me afterwards something along the lines of is that all they ever “do” in class and could they “do” more? I knew when she said that she was referring to “doing” more of the physical stuff of yoga.
Hmmm….we chatted about it and as I reflected on it throughout the day I realized that not only have I overcome insecurities about myself, I have also found that the foundation in myself and my work is incredibly strong. This was not always the way I felt and it has taken me polishing myself over the years to remove the doubts and fears and step into being vulnerable enough to share what I do with others in a very real sense. This also allows an opening for me to learn and continue to polish.
This is my truth–When I enter a group home or assisted living setting to share yoga, I have an intention which is to always value them and see them.
As we entering the house, my plan for class had to shift once I was there a few minutes and we finished the check in. I ALWAYS do a check in and this is so important to what I believe is a great method that I have developed over time. In the check-in they get to answer how is their mind, body and spirit. This is something I believe we ALL need to do on a daily basis because it helps us to pause, assess ourselves so we know what we need. By answering these questions in a simply one or two word answer, it also opens the door for vulnerability, connection, empathy and much more.
The group on this day had just three students. The most able bodied student was out and the three that gathered in the living room included one who is partially paralyzed with no movement in left arm and minimal in left leg, one who suffers from severe PTSD and pain, and one who has very little motor control and incredible low self esteem as a result. This is a group who are working very hard on acceptance, grief and how to integrate themselves into their current lives following their injuries.
During the check in I learned that one student was tired but good, and another answered like this: mind-broken, body-broken, spirit-more broken. The tired student had a hard time sitting up straight and suffers from neck and back pain, so using the soft couch for support was where he was at. The student who felt he was broken has very little control of his body and the moment he feels a sense of failure, he quits. His tremors and lack of coordination is embarrassing to him and if he struggles, he 99% of the time will stop movement and just listen. The one who is partially paralyzed needs hand over hand support for lifting his arm and leg.
Did I need to switch gears? Heck yes.
Why? Because my intention is to value them and to see them.
I saw that they were struggling physically and my sense was that they needed the connection and opportunity to be seen more than they they needed to be challenged physically or “do” more. In my mind they were “doing” a lot by engaging, talking, sharing openly, and being present. For these guys, trust is HUGE and they chose to sit around the living and participate.
If I kept my class plan and/or asked them to do something new/hard/unfamiliar it is likely on this particular day, it would have caused them to bail. Since my intention is in valuing them, by adjusting my plan and giving them space to share and move easily in their bodies, they were able to feel successful in a world where they have little success. This touches on their past trauma, their present challenges and how connection and being seen can fuel confidence in them.
Yes, we did some movement and we did some breathing. We learned a simple sequence that is heart based and tapped into a softer side. Yes, we learned about energy and reciprocity of giving and receiving. We learned about faith in ourselves and something greater than ourselves. We shared our gratitudes.
While all of this magic was going on, dishes were being banged, conversations being loudly had, people in and out, distraction after distraction. Hard? Very.
For the yoga teachers out there, what is YOUR intention when teaching? Does your intention change based on your students in class and is your intention different than your class plan?
For everyone, what is your intention? How do you want to interact with the world today? Begin your day by setting an intention and then make choices to align with that.
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