Before I had started offering morning yoga classes over the weekend at the multipurpose hall in the apartment building that we both happen to live in, she had to rely on those DVDs.
“But you know how it goes, practicing yoga alone in front of a TV is just not the same as attending a class.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
Although there are many respected websites out there now offering subscription based online videos to aid a home practice, a live class setting guided by an experienced instructor is still an essential part of one’s practice. A human touch is beneficial when attempting a new pose or when the desire to further explore an advanced variation of a pose sets in. Most importantly, the presence of another person helps guide and encourages the other safely into the intended pose.
Without this very same method of human interaction, I know for a fact I would not have been able to experience what it feels like to be in a full halasana, or plow pose.
I had been practicing on and off for the last six years, and consistently in the last three. Throughout all of these years, each time the teacher would bring forth the dreaded plow I would slowly bring myself up to salambasana or shoulder pose. And then, with much fear, fold over attempting to touch the floor above my head with both of my feet.
Somehow the floor always feels like it was miles away from my toes each time I attempted it. So for months I would hover my toes above my head, never really knowing how far they were from the floor, and convinced I would never reach the full extension, filled with the fear that if I tried to reach a little further, I would twist my neck and break it in two.
When I finally got to experience what it really feels like to have your toes touching the ground above your head it was in a different studio with a teacher who possessed the cheer of radiant sunlight within. Seeing that I was struggling, she held my hips firmly and told me to keep reaching for the floor.
“You are very very close, really” she encouraged.
This was when I learned how to put complete trust in another person. Although, at that point it must have not felt anything like trust to my teacher as I fiercely gripped onto her ankles, fearful of what I would happen.
This fear felt strangely familiar, much like the fear of letting go of a relationship or a career that is not aligned to your purpose anymore because the unknown is terribly scary. To learn to make decisions in these situations however, require complete faith not in someone else, but in yourself.
During my teacher training course, and with the guidance of my teachers and wonderful course mates, I learned to move in and out of plow on my own. Once, a kind course mate who was watching from the side, grabbed a block and placed it right underneath my hovering toes,
“There, you are only about as far away from the floor as the height of this block.”
When fear is put into context, and in this case the height of a block, it seems so tiny in respect to the vastness of possibility of things you can achieve.
Halasana was my first milestone in learning about myself through yoga. And I credit this to the number of teachers that have stood behind me, while I gripped intensely on their ankles and calves, and the wonderful soul who taught me to my fears must be put into context before I could conquer them.
And certainly, none of this would have been possible without having the presence and patience of a human soul.
Nabilla Sharil is a twenty-something Malaysian who enjoys talking about anything and everything to do with yoga to anyone that is willing to listen. She received her RYT200 from Vikasa School of Yoga, Koh Samui in 2012 and is now moonlighting as a yoga instructor on weekends. She dreams of opening her own wellness center in Kuala Lumpur one day offering an assortment of alternative healing from all parts of the ancient Asian traditions.