Last week, we introduced Sunstone’s vision as well as the Five Teaching Principles that guide our teachers in helping our students cultivate their very best selves. These principles are our core values, the foundation on which we’ve built our studios.
They are equally valuable for you, our students. They create the landscape for what your experience with us can be like. Whether you’re in your second class, or well on your way to building a body, mind, and life practice, these words describe behaviors that can turn what seems to be the simple action of taking a yoga class into something truly life-changing.
This week, we focus on Being Engaged –mentally and physically–#1 in importance for students.
- Being engaged means, first and foremost, being present in your practice. This frequently is our most challenging task in the yoga room. It easy to assume that a particular posture is your Kryptonite, but more often than not, it’s thoughts of the outside world (i.e. office, kids, finances) that can throw you off. Watch yourself wobble in Eagle the moment your mind drifts to that phone call from earlier today…To be fully present is to commit to what is happening right now within your body, within the space of the yoga room, to quiet the outside noise and focus just on you. This is how you will become receptive to learn the lessons yoga teaches you about yourself.
How do you create this space within yourself? Set an intention at the beginning of class to stay present in your practice. Focus on your own eyes in the front mirror and resist the urge to watch others. If your mind suddenly starts trying to problem-solve, bring attention to your breathing. This will help bring you back to the present moment.
- Actively listen to what your teachers say during class. It’s another way of staying engaged. Yes, you are hearing the teacher’s words and instructions, but are you listening? What do the words really mean?
Trying to process and follow their instructions, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone, will keep you engaged and present in your practice. There’s a good chance you’ll “hear” something for the first time and that something might turn on a light bulb for you.
Also, take care that you are staying with your teacher’s instructions. Especially as we become familiar and comfortable with the sequence of postures, we may go on auto-pilot and enter or exit postures before the teacher has prompted to do so. Check in with yourself and make sure you are focusing on the instructions and staying with the group.
- Now that you are mentally engaged, ask yourself whether you are truly physically engaged. We want to avoid just hanging out in postures and going through the motions. Consistently checking in from your heels to your head. Start with your strong foundation (even the toes are active!), contract your quads, abs and glutes, lift your rib cage up. *whew* Not only will it keep you focused on the present (at a bare minimum that list in and of itself will get you half way through your hold time) but you’ll feel stronger in postures with that set up.
Each posture and class is an opportunity for you learning and growth in and out of the yoga room. Make your postures dynamic, entering them with purpose without comparison to other. Find a deeper awareness by connecting your breath to the movement, allowing it to enhance your focus throughout the entire hold time. For example, in Half Moon, don’t just press the hips over to where you usually go and stay there the entire time. Explore whether you can lengthen and stretch deeper with each breath.
- Engage your practice outside of the yoga room. Ask questions before or after class. Maybe you want help with a particular posture, you’re wondering about an article you read or want to know more about a particular Series. This is a great opportunity to engage with your instructor and continue building your practice.
Start to notice how what you do outside of the yoga room affects what happens inside. Everything from how much sleep you got, the water (or other beverages) you chose to drink, what you ate yesterday, to that annoying email you haven’t responded to yet can change your experience for better or worse.
Become part of our community – learn your teacher’s name or *gasp* even another student’s, participate on our Facebook page by tagging us @sunstoneyoga or posting a pic to our wall, respond to a forum thread after you register on our website. Maybe you can take time beyond your usual routine to attend a weekend workshop.
- Finally, be open to receiving and giving feedback. Feedback gives us a new perspective outside of ourselves. It is how we can grow and become our very best self. An easy, anonymous way to give us feedback is to take a few seconds after each class to complete our new 30-second survey. Your teachers want you to have the best experience possible in class, and you as our students are the only ones who can give us that consistent feedback. Let us hear from you!