Chaos On The Mat?
A student stayed after class recently to ask a question about all the various classes she's taking. I'm paraphrasing here, but her concern was if all these different practices were working together or creating chaos, and should she be sticking to one type of practice. This led to a great conversation about what happens in different classes and why there is no definitive answer to her question.
Here are my two cents, more of a set of opinions than an answer.
Some classes, like mine, are all about self-awareness and body knowledge. Learning how your body works, what movement patterns are well-honed and which ones need some attention, that's what I teach. Other classes, such as a Vinyasa class are all about flowing movement that takes your body into a variety of geometric shapes, connecting to the breath. These can be quite vigorous. Still others are more focused on meditation, or energy or breathing, and some emphasize community. All of these are good classes.
My body, with all its accumulated injuries, has guided my teaching and practice toward the first of these: self-awareness and body knowledge. I do crave movement, but I'm more likely to dance or walk or hike when I want to move without care. I no longer find Vinyasa classes appealing when I have to stop and modify throughout. I end up with my "teacher brain" turned on. My need for movement is curtailed by consciously adapting throughout lest I re-injure myself. I will happily attend a meditative class. I find I can much more easily let someone else do the guiding and I get to be a student in such gentle settings.
Other people need steady or vigorous movement more than they need to tune in, slow down, and pay attention. You can certainly get that on the mat, so why not? And still others go to class as an activity they do with a friend. Or they create friendships over time so they return to that class to maintain those friendships.
All of these are valid reasons to attend a particular class. And if you've been practicing a long time, you might have different classes that you attend for different reasons, as was the case with the student who asked this question.
What happens if your teachers give instructions for a particular pose that seem contradictory? This is not uncommon and that is where it can feel as though maybe you are courting chaos. Teachers have their own experiences and training that they bring to to the class, and you may find that you're being given different cues from each teacher for the very same pose. I suggest you take some time on your own to try the pose. Do it a few times, each time using a different set of instructions. With each version, notice how you feel before, during, AND after the pose. If one set of instructions leaves you breathing easier, and another eases tension in your hip, and another makes you feel powerful, then all are beneficial to you. You get to decide which you do when and why. (You are a grown up; you get to attend to your body your way.) If no one set of instructions seems to be that different in your body, then you can do what each teacher instructs when in their class. And if one seems beneficial and the other(s) do not, then it is important to honestly inform your instructor that you may be doing XYZ pose a little differently because it is helping you in some way (addressing misalignment or injury or breathing, etc.). As a teacher, I'm pleased to know you are consciously choosing something because you've learned it serves you better. If you don't tell me that's what you're doing, then I might assume you don't understand my instruction.
The short answer to my student this week was that it's only creating chaos if it feels chaotic. Know why you're there: self-awareness/body knowledge, movement, meditation/breath, community. While you might find a class that meet all those criteria, no single class needs to do all of that.
Enjoy each class for what it provides.
Deep, and not so deep, thoughts on bodies, movement, yoga, art, shoes, parenting, dogs. You know, life.