Come straight to part two? First read: Why ‘Lucy No Lotus’ Yoga? Part one of two.
In the ‘About’ section of my website I described how I contacted my teacher to gauge her response on whether I could participate in a yoga teacher training. I half wanted her to say yes, but the other half of me wanted her to tell me I was being ridiculous so I could move on from the fantasy. Needless to say she unequivocally chose the first option. This led me to sign up for Dhugal Meachem’s 200-hour foundation training in Edinburgh in 2017.
Throughout the teacher training I was plagued with self-doubt. I felt physically inferior as other students seemingly flew effortlessly into handstands or wheel pose, while, even with effort, I didn’t. Somehow though I would turn up each day, attempt to tune out the negative voice and just keep practicing. It never felt like an option to quit, something was changing inside me, for the better.
“You can be strong and flexible and still be an arsehole”
I’ll never forget one crisis point where I texted my teacher-friend-supporter as I didn’t feel strong OR flexible. Who was I kidding? How could I teach? Her response was something along the lines of:
“you can be strong and flexible and still be an arsehole. I know plenty of teachers with very strong practices that are horrible people and lousy teachers. You are a lovely person who cares and that will make you a brilliant teacher”.
Her words stuck and became my mantra for the rest of the training (and in the years since).
Back to the whole lotus pose thing though…
Lotus pose seems to be so synonymous with yoga. The chances are that any image search of ‘yoga’ will turn up multiple versions of people sitting with eyes closed in this position (probably with a beautiful landscape as a backdrop). Yoga studios and teacher logos often heavily feature the lotus symbol. None of this helped me, though. I couldn’t do it!
That couldn’t be the end though, or I wouldn’t be writing this today. Leading to…
The Lightbulb Moment!
At some point during the teacher training, which had a strong variable anatomy focus, I realised something.
No matter how much stretching I do, how much I strain or force or push or pull (or berate) myself I will never sit in lotus pose (without a significant operation first). It doesn’t make me a bad person, or a bad teacher. Quite simply, my bones and my anatomical structure will not allow it, and that’s OK. If this sounds obvious, I’m delighted for you. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has been plagued with anxiety and felt limited in my yoga practice based on assumptions, rather than informed by science and research.
Nowadays I teach from a place of deep care and compassion for anyone that beats themselves up. When I’m teaching, I frequently intersperse cues with things like: ‘it doesn’t make you a better person if you can do [x]’, ‘you’re head will not fall off if you can’t do [y]’. I believe in using humour as a distraction from the negative thoughts that can creep in during a yoga practice and I encourage people to work with what they have, rather than make themselves miserable by striving for something unattainable.