As a young dancer, I was trained to look at my teachers to form an image in my mind of the “right way” to do something, then to look in a mirror, and form myself to that image. This is an extrinsic way of learning with very little reference to my own body.
Of course, I learned also from the feedback I gained from moving, but that was after I already had the image of the “right way” and somehow, the image of how steps looked remained more important than how I felt them in my body.
This happens in yoga too: we look to our teachers for models of what the poses look like. That is not wrong. Our eyes are a useful tool for learning. And, yet, that model image may override our own experience of the pose. This happens for many reasons—our bodies may not match the body style, shape, of the teacher. Our arms and legs may be longer or shorter relevant to our torsos, making the cues the teacher gives simply not apply to our shapes—and we may not even know that until years later. The cues for placing my feet for Bridge, for example, simply do not help me arrive in a configuration that helps me align for bridge--and that is true for more than 2/3 of the students I teach. Feet are either too far or too close to the sitting bones, too wide, or too narrow. The placement is based on canned cues that may not have been questioned even by a wonderful teacher (I have used them myself before I knew), instead of being based on the function of lifting the hips in the air--and how that works for us--and what that means for how we place the feet.
As an adult, and as a practitioner of Yoga, and most importantly, the Feldenkrais Method®, I now know that intrinsic feedback from my practice of yoga is invaluable to developing my own internal reference. This is something that I began to learn in Yoga, but have learned to do playfully, experimentally, and joyfully through Awareness Through Movement® (Feldenkrais group classes) and Functional Integration® lessons.
This idea of looking within for how I am aligned, how I feel, serves me in my life: I am much more aware of whether I am violating my own boundaries in my day-to-day interactions with others and with myself. I can feel it in the way I am breathing, feel a sensation in my gut.
I have built in more space to listen deeply to the voice within, and as I have made changes to my life, and my way of being, that voice has become much more easy to hear.
Heather Danso is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Method® Practitioner, Restorative Yoga teacher, Awareness Through Movement® facititator.
As an artist, she playfully explores work in Acrylic, printing, and multimedia, creating portraits and abstracts that explore expression, playfulness, identity, and the possible. Her CV is here.