Last week I have been mostly studying with Rolf and
Marci at yogabones in Goa. I say studying rather than practicing because it has been an education. Of course I had an idea of what to expect, plenty of people had told me that they will take your practice apart and put it back together the right way and this was exactly my observation of their style, and I have to say I was very impressed.
When I did drop-backs with Rolf on the first day I felt a twinge in my SI joint, which is common for me. Rolf noticed this and said “Tomorrow you work with Marci”. So I waited before backbends and asked Marci to help me open my spine. Over the course of the next 30 minutes or so she discovered that I have a double curve scoliosis in my spine and that my right hip and shoulder drop more than my left (which is probably why my left shoulder is so sore, it’s been doing all the work). She gave me some exercises to do to get my body working in the correct way and to teach me to be able to feel the imbalance – which is hard to learn as we’re so used to seeing imbalance with our eyes, but when you can’t practice in a mirrored box then there is no way to see yourself from all angles in a pose.
It was tough, my thighs were trembling like a toddler’s pet lip. I realised how lazy the body becomes, once you think you’re used to your yoga practice, the body takes short cuts to avoid the muscle effort by shifting the effort into a joint or something. Which leads to injury.
Listening to Rolf and Marci talk to the other students I couldn’t help but be struck by how compassionate their teaching is. Here are just a few of the things I heard them say over the course of the week…
“There are plenty of people out there who will have ambitions for you and your practice, they want you to push yourself to achieve, but really what is there to achieve if it is hurting you? It’s no problem for them if you get injured, but you have to have enough respect for your body not to allow the practice to hurt.”
“Nobody cares if you can jump through or not, you’re not strong enough in your shoulders yet and if you keep going like that you’ll hurt yourself, so until the strength comes, just step through and sit down.”
“If you’re feeling tired don’t force your body to do full practice, take a restorative, learn to listen to when your body needs support, do whatever nourishes your body.”
“I’m not holding you back, I’m supporting you and your practice.”
There are fewer people here than in the shala in Mysore and this allows for real individuality of teaching. With R&M every student that walks through their doors, even if it’s just for a week, gets something they can take away and work on – possibly for years in my case, given how shaky my thighs are!