Bending The Boilerplate

I wasn’t sure I’d keep going with these frags of the days but I just discovered this morning some of them are double-sided. Some have the crossed key and arrow symbol but some have another word. That means I’m further behind than I thought. And since I’m enjoying it, why not streak on?


This was a word I used a lot in my yoga classes. Any time I asked my students to step backward on the mat from a standing position I asked them first to bend their knees a little and bring some buoyancy into their hips. We’d play with that buoyancy for a moment, then transfer the weight to a ready leg, then step back with one foot. It became one of my signatures. Most of the yoga world prefers that you step forward from Downward Facing Dog, thrusting one knee forward underneath your chest to plant a foot between your hands as you lower your hips, then raise your torso. Not in my class. I avoided the conventional thrust as much as possible and let them float back instead. My older students loved it. They told me so.

People forget to use the energy around their bodies as much as the energy within the body. Teachers don’t emphasize this. We yammer on about muscle energy and breath energy and kundalini and emotion and visualization within our anatomy and ignore the energy moving around our bodies. People relate to their practice completely differently when you stop directing them to perform yoga poses and instead coax them to allow yoga postures to happen. Instead of commanding them to open their chests, suggest to them energy is swirling behind their backs, swelling up to their spines and shoulders, and they may lay back against it. Recline into it. Let their backs be supported energetically and voila, those chests will release open. There’s a difference between release and simply posing the chest in an open position.

It works in powerful poses too. Do you want yoga soldiers or do you want yoga students?  The root word of student is study. If you want people to raise their hips in plank, float something (energy) under the pelvis. If you want them to lower their hips, tell them a loved one (energy) is trying to kiss them on the sternum. If you want to open a collapsed shoulder in an extended reach or revolved posture you just swell, puff, or blow energy along the side of the neck. If you want a body part or the entire body flat on the floor, bring the floor up under them to meet them and hold them up.

Magnetize their hearts toward something if you want lifted spines. Shine imaginary lights across the floor for alignment. Place imaginary loved ones around them. Send miniature ski jumpers off the ends of their fingers or toes. Create imaginary breezes blowing in a specific direction or swirling around them. They’ll do it. I’ve seen it. It looks like magic. Hell, it feels like magic. Most students have no idea there is yoga available to them around their bodies on their mats and in the room.

This means you have to break some yoga rules though. In an effort to coach students not to compare themselves to each other we tell them to keep their focus only on what’s happening on their own mats. If you want to open up the entire room to each student they have to be allowed to break out of the confines of their own mats. If you want them to share or pass energy between them they have to be allowed to look at each other and acknowledge each other. Creating a scenario in which energy is moving all around the room means their awareness has to expand to include the entire room. They might need to laugh. They might need to speak, maybe even to each other. They might need a comparison for contrast. I’ve seen students help each other by sharing a look and a whisper. It’s a beautiful thing. I ask again, you want students or soldiers? You want a classroom with learning and insight, or a performance space with drill and regulation?

Nothing I ever taught got more positive feedback than a class in which I asked the students to imagine tropical fish were swimming around them. It was my most requested repeat class. I meet former students out in public all the time and they bring this up to me. The second most popular class was my Valentines Day heart opener in which we all had imaginary searchlights in our chests. One word can break it all open and change it from a regimented workout to a study of yoga, energy, and wellness. Stop training your students. Don’t be trained by your teachers. Suggest. Imply. Create. Allow. A word like buoyancy bends the boilerplate, y’all. I recommend it highly.

— Mercy

2 Comments Add yours

  1. landmers says:

    I’m using the term “Bending the Boiler Plate” for something. I don’t know what, but I’m gonna!


    1. Renaissance Heart says:

      Rock on.


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