Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


The Gift of Unexpected Back Bends

I went to teach yoga feeling the same fatigue I've been fighting with for a week or two now. My throat never gets beyond a little "scratchy" feeling and I'm sneezing a bit (but the trees are starting to get leaves), but never really where I feel sick. Mostly just so tired out and my shoulders felt a little sore from the class I took at Exhale last night.

Three students showed up tonight and one of them, a returning student who has a more advanced practice, asked if we could play around with "wheel" pose. Really this pose is called "Upward Bow" and I had noted a couple of weeks ago I couldn't teach it because my shoulders were so badly strained. Tonight when she asked I realized I didn't have to demonstrate how to do the pose perfectly so much as I needed to be very precise in verbally teaching it. That and very mindful of my students.

I put together a class to work towards ending with upward bow pose ; opening the front of the legs, warming up the abdominal muscles, and waking up the strength in the shoulders. Not too vigorous so they would have the energy to lift up at the end of class. I got everyone set up with bricks against the wall for extra length and as I finished helping the two very new students I looked over to see the returning student, L, UP in the pose all on her own!

I believe we were both equally excited about her getting up into the pose when she didn't think she would be able to!

I then partnered with one of the newer students and we were able to cradle L through a drop backwards into upward bow! The two new students, having both seen and helped someone into the pose, felt brave enough to try it after that! Each of the three students did the supported back bend! There were many smiles, much laughter, occasional "oofs", and spontaneous applause.

It was just amazing working with them and receiving another lesson in the ways in which my inability to do a pose perfectly, or at all, matters so much as my mindful teaching. I found myself sitting bemused and filled with gratitude while they all lay in savasana at the end of class. How sometimes the manner in which I can be pushed outside of my own limits to realize another way is possible is a delightful experience.

Out of gratitude for the gift of the class tonight I wrote a poem for the 30-day Challenge about learning from my students.


I learn from them,
These people called "students".
That arrive each week
And call me "teacher".

I have learned that we forget
Self-compassion as easily and as
Quickly as we forget the breath
When experiencing a challenge.

I have felt how laughter helps
To release the deep, sharp
Intensity in a body overly
Familiar with tension.
And how a room filled
With that laughter feels
Warm and welcoming
Even on the coldest days.

A measure of the daring I
Possessed as a child has
Been reintroduced to me
Through people delighted to
Try something simply because
I offered instruction,
Encouragement and support.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. this one’s going in my yoga notebook, you.

  2. Upward Bow Pose is a great backbend at the end of a practice. Leeann Carey, an amazing and inspiring yoga teacher, has a great free yoga video that shows some tips on getting to the pose from the ground. I thought your readers might be interested in checking it out:

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