Are you ever curious or confused as to why a Yoga teacher gives certain instructions? Take an example. Why do we say ‘level or square the hips’. The simple reason is that the spine in connected to the pelvis. Try the following exercise out on someone. Get them to stand up straight and then get them to just drop one hip or have one foot stood on a block, so that their hips are slanted. Then have a look at their back. You will probably see that their spine has moved into a bit of a curve. If we practise postures with the same out of kilter bias to the hips all the time, and in the same way, then there is a chance that there will be a long term retrograde effect on the spine. Level hips, straight spine! Hips can be level not only up and down, but front to back. So take a posture like warrior 1. If you were looking straight into a mirror, you would want a level line, so that the hips were horizontal with the floor. If you were looking sideways at the body, you would also want the hips in line as much as possible front to back. Of course there are many postures in Yoga, where the hips are deliberately put out of level, like Trikonasana. But we are conscious of returning them to a state of neutrality afterwards, so that the spine is always straightened out.
Why not ask the teacher what a posture is for, or why a sequence is done in a certain way? (After the class, rather than in the middle!) Or send an email. A teacher can always reply on this blog, for the benefit of everyone. Yoga is not a blind science. It nurtures exploration and the application of intelligence. If we start to understand the nature of some of the postures, then we have a much better chance of working out how it makes sense in our own bodies, rather than rigidly adhering to a superimposed picture of how we think we should look. And this is important. Our bodies are all different. A posture embodies a set of principles, and we are encouraged to explore how those principles arise for us individually. Yoga is a research project and when we really get this, the practice becomes even more nourishing. So if you don’t have an idea of why something is being instructed, and we are all in that place at one time or another, then please don’t be shy. Feel free to ask.
By Derek Elliot
Derek teaches Restorative Yoga on Mondays at 19.45.