Friday, December 19, 2014

Do you really want to use a calculator for that?

My daughter Lucia is learning Algebra right now. She's forever trying to figure out what 92 is divisible by or if 3X=194, is there a remainder.... There is so much she doesn't know, so much she has to parse apart to get to an answer. Once, after Lucia went to bed, I tried to do her math-- without a calculator-- and it was truly work for me. My math muscles have most definitely atrophied since fourth grade.

For those of you who have taken my class, you know that I draw some hard lines with Standing Head to Knee Pose. For many reasons, I feel 100% committed to teaching this posture really true to form. For one, it is really hard to balance when the posture's foundation is compromised (bent standing knee); two, you could hurt your back if you don't have proper alignment and a solid foundation; and three (and most important), if you skip the hard work to get through the steps of the posture, you've missed the most important part of the posture! Last week I said to one class, "Kicking out on a bent knee is like doing math with a calculator!"

But still I see it every day, people kicking out on a bent knee, or bending their elbows with a bent knee, even trying to touch forehead to knee with two bent knees! If you are a regular practitioner, you know what  I'm talking about. I know this shortcutting I see is just human nature. People are excited to "get there", to that final position of the posture. That's only natural; we are trained from toddlerhood to get to the finish line, to make the goal, to hit a home run.

In Yoga we are practicing a different paradigm. It's not the end point, it is the process of getting there.  In the process, our muscles develop, both physically and mentally. In Standing Head to Knee Pose, our quads strengthen and new neural pathways get established, but only if we give them the time and space to do the work.

It is so like Lucia doing her math. I've watched over these three months of fourth grade: the first week complete confusion over what an integer is; how the heck long division makes sense; those pesky word problems! Day in and day out though, math homework comes home and Lucia struggles with these problems from the beginning, sometimes going back a unit to refresh certain concepts, but she's getting stronger and more solid in her math practice.

Some days when I practice Standing Head to Knee and my back feels good and my knees are happy,  I can kick out and hold my form. Other days, I'm not so strong, or my muscles are tight, or I have an injury, and I have to back track, refrain from kicking out first set, or maybe both sets. Every time I do the pose, I have to connect with what my body knows, what part of the posture is clicking into place, before I move onto the next part of the posture. Only then will I be able to get to the next part of the equation.

In not taking shortcuts, in not assuming our bodies "know it all" every time we practice, we're basically choosing not to use a calculator to get the final answer. We're choosing to use opportunities to build our strength, to learn new things, to uncover what we don't know.

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