I was visiting family in California recently so had the chance to practice at a nearby Bikram yoga studio. I had been to this studio before and always enjoyed my classes there. This time was no different, except that the teacher was giving me corrections that I did not understand. I usually enjoy learning from new teachers and am open to all sorts of adjustments, but this time it just felt wrong. I did not know how to do what she was asking me to do or even what exactly she was asking me to try.
I felt uncomfortable so I decided to disregard her comments and continue on with my practice as is. It felt strange doing so. She did not seem to be bothered by it, so I relaxed, but it got me thinking — should you always listen to a yoga teacher when he or she gives you a correction?
I have been practicing regularly at my studio for more than seven years and am lucky that I know many of the teachers there. And they know me and my practice. When I get corrections from them, I feel confident that they are made with a deep knowledge of what they think I can safely do.
I always implement these adjustments to the best of my ability and try to incorporate their tips into my daily practice. I often think of the teacher by name as I make the correction in future classes, saying a quick thank you in my mind for the improvement. If I don’t understand what they mean, I can always ask them at the next class.
Sometimes an unfamiliar teacher will see something new — a small detail in the way my hips are aligned or in the angle of my shoulders that can change a posture for the better. These new corrections are fascinating and always appreciated. I try to incorporate these as best as I can too.
To their credit, most teachers say that the yogi knows his or her body best, and if a correction does not make sense or feel safe, to ignore it. Only we can know if the pain is merely a stretch or something sharper. Or if we have an undisclosed injury or condition. Or if we had a really rough weekend.
We need to trust ourselves, and if the correction doesn’t work for us today or feel appropriate in some way, we should ignore it. I am glad I did.
Readers, do you always listen to your yoga teachers?