Can you believe she referred to us that way? We are her class. What just came out of her mouth? She just called us Know-it-all's. Was she talking to me? Am I know-it-all-y? Why would she want to bring us down like that? We get a Participation Award just for showing up.
Who cares if she was right? We are her Monday night class of All-That-And-A-Bag-of-Chips. I can that see each of the men and women here in her Monday night class pride themselves on being limber or strong. We know each of the poses before she can even ask us to come into them. Monday night, hey this is the smarty-pants crowd. Thing is, it wasn't until after she said, "For all you know-it-all's here..." that I now see the type of class we are.
Let's be clear - she encourages and promotes our knowing. That's inherent in a good instructor. I like this instructor in particular because she spends large portions of her class each week showing us and coaxing us into proper alignment with our yoga poses. She spends a portion of her instruction time in allowing us to move into our asana (our pose) and feel how it is supposed to feel.
The Monday before last it was the plank pose. I have always prided myself on how long I can hold a plank. I have been holding it wrong. While in plank I do not hurt, but going into the pose and coming out again, usually in a down-facing dog, my lower back would twinge. Depending on how many times the instructor has the class going in and out of Downward Dog my lower back would change from twinge to soft pain. I was hoping I was getting stronger. According to my Monday Night Instructor I most likely am not getting stronger; I am just in pain. Now my planks are at a different angle, not a let's-do-push-ups angle, and my Downward-Facing Dogs are easy in and easy out.
This week Monday Night Instructor decided our chair poses (Utkatasana) were very sad. Very sad. She walked between us and said, "For all you who know it all, let pretend you don't and start from the beginning." We were in our chair poses, varying states of sitz, feeling the burn, I'm sure. (Some yoga instructors have referred to the chair pose as the Uncomfortable pose. Maybe Uncomfortable and Utkatasana sound alike - I can't tell. My Sanskrit is fuzzy.) I can only wonder how many others were feeling the burn from her words. Maybe it was only me.
But it seems we all came to attention as we considered her requests to learn our anatomy and how to engage the gluteus medus rather than the gluteus maximus when standing. We considered where the neck meets the Thoracic spine - how to look up with out engaging the neck. Very interesting stuff.
We used our gluteus medus to stand - and what a change that is from using gluteus maximus. Our gluteus maximus engages our lower back. Our gluteus medus engages our hips more than our back. Monday Instructor trains us that as we stand again coming out of the Chair Pose we are to push our feet and knees outward - not that they move, feet stay on the ground and the knees stay over the toes - are engaging a different set of muscles to stand coming from the Chair Pose. Totally cool stuff to feel a whole side of leg muscles instead of my back.
While I have always "liked" the chair pose...this Monday I learned where all the angles are supposed to reside. My upper body is to be at the same angle as my lower legs. My arms are to be at the same angle as my upper body. My head and gaze are to look up - but without engaging my neck - that was a great lesson as well. It seems that with a little practice and mindfulness one can find the spot to tilt one's head back without engaging the entire upper neck leading into the skull. Holding the pose just got easier.
Though I am not totally enamored of this particular yoga studio - I don't know that I will sign up for the long term here - that Monday Night Instructor is worth her weight in gold and I'm the Know-It-All to say it.