Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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The Practice of Trust: Appreciating the Art of Assistance

The art of the assist is an amazing part of yoga practice.

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Assisted Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

The purpose of the assist is to help students attain proper form and reap the benefits of the pose. Assists can be doled out verbally, by giving students a mental picture to connect the instruction to the task at hand. One of my favorite verbal cues is when the instructor prompts us to envision our bodies between two plates of glass while holding trikonasana.

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Trikonasana

There is also the self assist using a block…

Trikonasana with block

or a strap.

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Navasana with strap (Boat Pose)

But, the most interactive form of assistance is hands on.

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Assisted Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

As a novice yogini, I wasn’t thrilled when I discovered that often instructors offer hands on assists in yoga classes. In the beginning, I tolerated assists, even though I felt vulnerable. I was caught in a weird place of being freaked out by being touched by a relative stranger, yet at the same time, I appreciated the help.assist2

When an instructor would move into my space, I immediately became self-conscious. I was twitchy and tense, preoccupied with my fledgling skills and sweaty skin. At the same time, I found the contact provided incredibly insightful guidance that was helpful in improving my form. Soon, I accepted that a well executed assist gave me a safe place to reach a little further and test my abilities.chris_chavez__spanish_banks_yoga_class__23-250x374

I became a true fan of assists while taking half-moon pose. Having the physical support of my instructor allowed me to fully extend and rotate while finding my balance. That was something I had not been able to do alone. Having the instructor there gave me a glimpse of how the pose would feel when executed properly. The next time I did it on my own, I knew what to shoot for.

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Assisted Ardha Candrasana (Half Moon Pose)

I grew comfortable with the close proximity of a hands on assist. I was lucky to work with some incredibly gifted practitioners that struck the delicate balance of coming into a person’s private space without crossing the boundaries that exist there. As I let go of my fears of letting someone get close to me, I was able to get the support I needed to make me a stronger practitioner. I came to trust the helpful hands that reached out during my practice.

How about that? My ability to trust made me stronger.

With all of the reasons to be guarded in this world, I found the practice of trust in the yoga studio refreshing.

I like to think that yoga practice itself can be considered an assist to daily living, building strength in the skills of trust, focus, and flexibility for use in the everyday. I also like to think that there are more than a few places outside the studio where trust can flourish. It is only a matter of practice.


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The Truthful Pose

A lie has many variations the truth noneIt is so important to stay honest in yoga practice. When yogis and yoginis are not honest with themselves about their abilities they can risk injury or disappointment. When we practice, there is an inherent responsibility to be truthful with oneself.

This responsibility extends way beyond our practice into our lives. Unfortunately, in everyday life, people can be dishonest.

There are “white lies” that are often born from the intent to protect a person. There are blatant lies told to manipulate or to cover up a shameful truth. Either way, when a lie is told, it shows disrespect for another’s ability to handle or accept the truth. It also shows that the person telling the lie is too fearful to face the consequences of the truth. Every time a lie is told there is real damage done to trust and love.

So what does it mean when we lie to ourselves?see no evilAs humans, we have an amazing ability to adapt, survive and persevere through an untold range of challenges. Our minds have ancient coping and survival skills that protect our ability to function and carry out tasks on a daily basis.  If our prehistoric ancestors where so crippled with fear by their precarious position in the food chain, they would never have had the heart to pursue fresh drinking water and new food sources. Everyday they walked out into a potentially deadly landscape and did what they had to do to survive. Despite the horrible truth that they were potential prey.

Now, in our cocoon of modern amenities and considerable daily safety, our minds still have an uncanny ability to dismiss ugly truths. This is not always a bad thing. This little trick of our human mind has allowed some amazing things to happen. It has allowed people to beat insurmountable odds and flourish in desolate conditions. Think: Harriet Tubman, Hellen Keller, Ghandi, or Elie Wiesel. If they had focused on the hopelessness of their circumstances, they might have never have achieved such accomplishments.quote-even-if-you-are-a-minority-of-one-the-truth-is-the-truth-mahatma-gandhi-68003However, there is another kind of self deception that leaves the best part of ourselves hidden in fear. As people who need to get up everyday and walk into the world, often we can refuse to look things in the face and know them for what they are. Fear of change can keep us blind to many sad but true circumstances. That denial of the truth lays waste to the natural love we have for ourselves and trust in our own abilities.

The upside to this is that the truth never changes. It is always there, always available to visit, no matter how far one has wandered away. Despite our ability to lie to ourselves, despite the wreckage that can be created by the human ability to live with deception, there is always the resilience of the human heart. We can learn the truth, deal with it, heal and once again, find the strength to love and trust.