I can always tell when someone who is new to yoga comes into class. I can especially tell when it is someone who has not moved their body in a dynamic way for some time. When I see a person like that, I am more impressed with them than with the virtuoso who can perform like a professional.
Why is that? Because at the core of hatha yoga, one of the main physical practices that we offer at YMS, is the examining, working with and transforming of habits from harmful to beneficial. When someone is a virtuoso or even just well practiced in yoga, they have worked on themselves for enough time to have developed a comfort with the postures and movement. This is a fantastic thing because it means that healthier patterns that emphasize fundamental attributes like strength, mobility and balance have been integrated into someone's physicality. However the even more uncommonly fantastic thing is when someone who has been living with uninformed, unexamined and often harmful physical habits comes in and is willing to begin the process of working with them. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of trust.
At YMS we put a lot of emphasis on the general development of physical ability, or to put it another way, learning to move with confidence. We demonstrate this ability with challenging feats which we have learned over the course of a long time and with a lot of practice however these feats are simply advertisements for some of the freedom that comes from developing this confidence. I can say honestly that I DO NOT CARE if someone can do a handstand, touch their foot to the back of their head or slide into a split. I certainly think it's cool and am interested in how they developed those skills however from my point of view as a teacher, it is not so important. What to me is important is that my students, my friends and my community are becoming friends with their bodies and learning that life can be more joyful when they have the freedom to move. The process doesn't stop when you can do a handstand or a backflip, as our bodies evolve so does our practice and perspective.
I am most impressed and grateful for new students who may feel like they're strangers to their bodies. Developing a relationship with a stranger is scary but also exciting. The freshness of that beginners mind is more valuable to me than almost anything.
By Emile Sorger