Sunday, September 29, 2013

Key Points For Evaluating A 'Good' Practice

The most important thing to me at the end of a yoga class is that I feel good.  As a teacher, I want my students to feel good as well.

I try to make this clear by asking how people feel at the end of the class and by reminding people if that they don't feel good, or if (gulp) they somehow feel worse than when they came into class, that they should come and talk to me so we can try and nut out what might be going wrong.

Feeling good is understood differently by different people.  And sometimes things that might feel good while we are doing them can actually have harmful consequences.  Here I am thinking, for example, of people engaged in addictive activities that ultimately lead to suffering for themselves or others.   

So I thought it might be good to explore what it is I mean when I say do you feel good and I came up with the 5 points below.

1. You feel like you have done something but you don't feel exhausted or like you need to go and relax because you have done yoga.  Instead you feel energised.

This is an important point.  It means you come to the end of your practice without feeling like you need to 'recover' from the yoga session.  In my recent practice it means I also practice in a way that is nourishing and which means I hardly feel the need to do savasana. Instead of needing to lie down and relax, I feel like I can sit and mediate peacefully.  

2. You feel energised in a way that makes you feel calm, focussed, and relaxed rather than 'buzzing'.

I want to suggest that the 'energy' you feel is one that focusses you and allows you to feel like you can go away and do things in a calm way.  It is not an electric or buzzing 'high' that might be more of a feeling that you have over-stimulated your nervous system.

3. The relaxation you feel is not one that makes you sleepy, scattered or spaced out. 

By the same token, I want you to feel relaxed but not sleepy.  Don't worry if you do fall asleep if you do savasana--it might mean other things are going on.  It is just that I am hoping that your yoga practice has not been so dull (and I mean this in a nervous system way not in the sense of being boring) that you  are under-stimulated or, conversely, that you have worked so hard in class that you need to 'sleep off' your practice. 

4. You feel content with where you are right now and with what you have done.

This is really important.  A part of being content means worrying less about whether you are doing things perfectly or whether you can do everything.  See if you can find contentment in every moment of just being.

5. The body is relaxed in a way that you can move without pain or stiffness (or with less pain and stiffness than you came to class with and certainly not more).
At the end of a physical yoga practice one of my aims is that you have moved your body in specific ways that unblocks any blockages and which allows energy to move through you so that you physically feel good.  If you have pains or aches that are present after class that were not present before class then we need to figure out why so please come and talk to me (or your other teachers). 

Notice how none of the points mentioned above have anything to do with what poses you did, how much you sweated,  how many calories you burned, how deeply you came into a posture, how flat your stomach is (I know people worry about this--my blog posts that have something about stomach in the title are always the most read!), or how long you practiced for.  None of those things will make you a better person and, ultimately, will probably not make much difference to your life.  

Ultimately, I practice because I want to feel good, happy, and healthy.  I want to be a kinder more generous person to myself and to others.  So in my practice I feel for those things.  I feel for them as I practice and at the end of my practice.  

In following posts I will explain some of the 'hows' to generating a practice that makes leaves you feeling good.  Until then, happy and safe practicing!

Much metta,

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