Fear and the Little Black Dress: Lessons from a Yoga Workshop

Fear and the Little Black Dress: Lessons from a Yoga workshop

 Lessons from a yoga workshop

I wanted to share lessons from a yoga workshop I taught recently because let’s face it, we can’t always make it out to a live class.   The workshop was my bi-annual Happy Joints: Yoga for Arthritis Workshop* in Calgary, AB.  The very first thing I said to the class, after my name of course, was…

Bring a beginner’s mind.

I meant two things by this:
  1. Keep an open mind when listening to the lessons and cues, and
  2. Practice as if you’d never practiced before.
When we’ve practiced yoga for a long timet we often have preconceived ideas about how things should be done.   Same goes even if we’ve never practiced yoga but have a firm opinion about what our bodies can and can’t do.  I wanted my students to put those ideas away and start fresh.  That is after all the whole point of yoga and mindfulness: to teach us how to stay present.  This is also what differentiates yoga therapy from other forms of conventional therapy, like physiotherapy and chiropractic, and why it is often their perfect compliment.
When we’re teachers, and especially when we’re a new teacher or if we’ve taught the same way for a number of years, we can get in a rut of cueing and regurgitating what we’ve been told to teach.  I wanted to encourage the teachers in the class to start fresh and to stay open to new ideas.
When we have arthritis and an autoimmune disease, we often focus on what we can’t do.  One of the goals of my teaching is to encourage students to focus on what their bodies can do for them, not on what they can’t. This takes mindfulness, open-mindedness, and patience on the part of the student and the teacher.
So, the next time you practice try this:
  • Ask yourself: how is fear or pre-conceived notions of my practice preventing me from starting or exploring my yoga or meditation practice?
  • What am I afraid of doing in a yoga class because I don’t want to feel pain or discomfort?
  • How can I practice and differently so I use less effort, focus more on making pure movements, and discover what my body really is and isn’t doing for me?
  • How does this new perspective and mindfulness change how I see my body and myself?


For teachers:

  • Are you really seeing what your students are doing or are you only repeating a script?
  • Do you have a sense for why you use the cues you do, when to apply them, and when to not?
  • When working with private students is what you’re teaching your students helping or hurting them, or is it giving you the change you want to see in them?

This philosophy can extend into your daily life. How often do we do things over and over again without getting the result we want but we keep doing them?  What things do you avoid doing in your day-to-day life because they make you uncomfortable?


Turn yourself into a scientist.  Every time you hit the mat keep an open mind about what you’ll feel and see.  Be the Jean Cousteau of your practice; explore the heck out of every inch of it!  You never know what you might find; a new land, a new movement pattern, and a better world of less fear, less pain, less tension, more confidence, and more self=awareness.


Happy teaching and practicing,


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