The pleasure of being led

Being a good Baptist and an only child, I’ve grown a bit accustomed to not being told what to do. Put simply, I prefer to call my own shots. Independent as I am, though, I am understanding that you can be independent and also be willing to acknowledge others’ wisdom. In other words, I can finally see that there is a pleasure in being led.

This awakening really came last summer when I took a Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga class in England. The teacher would show each student a few poses, observe, and then — when you seemed ready for more — introduce a few more poses. At any given moment, a person could be in a downward dog while another person folded his legs behind his head. Part of me bristled at this scenario. At the time, I was a few months out of yoga teacher training and about nine years (albeit nine inconsistent years)into my yoga journey. That perturbed part of me felt annoyed that I wasn’t considered “advanced” enough to move beyond very basic poses, and that I had to wait on the instructor to move me to the next set of poses while I sat next to human pretzels.

A larger part of me, however, delighted in this guided practice. I became more intentional in each pose, and discovered that I could refine my postures when I wasn’t rushing to move on to the next pose. What’s more, my instructor’s keen eye noticed misalignment that I hadn’t, and also observed the possibility lying dormant in my limbs. Up to that point, I thought my hips were far too tight for lotus pose. Nevertheless, when the instructor asked me to try the pose, I gave it a try. That class ended up being the first time I had ever gotten into lotus.

The Ashtanga class was a beautiful reminder that being led isn’t the same as being bossed around. Allowing myself to be led helped me deepen my practice in a way my self-guided practice probably never could have achieved.

The more I learn about yoga, the more I understand that I have a limited range of knowledge. It doesn’t make sense, then, to deny myself the blessing of being led by someone more knowledgeable than I am. On the mat and off, I’m embracing the fact that I know less than I don’t know, and that sometimes other people can offer wisdom I can’t get at by myself. Humbling myself to this wisdom has been a big step on allowing a bit more namaste in my day-to-day life. I hope the same for you!

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