From a young age, we learn the importance of respecting authority figures. Parents. Teachers. Other grown-ups.
In school, we learn that we must follow rules and ask permission — even to go to the bathroom, a basic human need.
Years later, maybe we discounted a niggling pain that turned into an injury, we pushed ourselves past our limits in a workout, or went too far in a yoga pose.
We wonder why we don’t know how to listen to our bodies.
Respecting authority and rules has a time and place. A world without structure leads to anarchy.
But there are some places where rules don’t apply, where the teacher you need to respect is the one that resides within you.
The practice of yoga isn’t only about getting into poses on the mat. As one of my teachers would say, the pose is where the practice begins.
Part of the practice of yoga is learning to listen to your body.
I feel fortunate that I’ve had teachers who reinforced this principle and helped guide me in cultivating my personal practice.
It’s something I carry with me as I step into the role of yoga teacher, as well as in my other roles as a coach, healer, and advisor.
When yoga teachers tell you to “focus on your practice,” this is what we mean: find your edges, listen to your body, be empowered in the choice you’re making.
Does the pose feel good in your body?
Does your body really want to go into that pose, or are you doing it because the teacher suggested it, the person next to you is taking it, or because you think it will make you look more advanced?
Yoga is not a game of “Simon Says” where you do something just because the teacher told you to. It’s a practice of exploring yourself, of looking within to see where your limits are and where your resistance is.
This applies on and off the mat.
You are your best teacher.
Whatever choice you make, feel empowered in that choice.