I arrived to the practice space this morning, only to discover that my lovely monthly lady friend had come a few days early (which would explain why I was bemoaning how fat I felt and also bitching out my husband the night before). I have adopted, in these past few months since my move to Seattle, a pretty rigorous practice in a somewhat Mysore-style fashion. I pump out a few Surya Namaskar As and Bs, run through my standing pose sequence from the Ashtanga Vinyasa Primary Series, then deviate from there depending on my mood. It’s normally a mish-mosh of handstand, Pincha Mayrasana (forearm stand), arm balances, hip openers, thigh stretches and backbends. At the tail end, I close with a pretty standard headstand/shoulderstand combo, per the Iyengar way. I never really think to end differently, it’s just something that’s been ingrained in me over the past six years with my teacher, who was a student of Mr. Iyengars in the 80s.

So I HAD planned to start warming up with handstands, per the discussion the day before with my current teacher, Troy. I told him my goal is to free balance in the middle of the room. He told me it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Needless to say, I have a few more hours to go, but that’s another story. When I discovered that I was on my cycle, I immediately reverted to my standard gentler practice with lots of supine hip openers, a few gentle supported standing poses and supported forward folds. Going into this kind of sequence on my cycle is pretty much like hitting the auto-play button. It’s just what I had ALWAYS been told to do. You are on your cycle. Go get the card with the Menstrual sequence on it. Put yourself in your own corner and go to town just chillaxing.

But today, Troy came over to give me an adjustment, and I informed him of the situation. It wasn’t like I was feeling that crappy or anything, it was just that I was SO used to doing what I THOUGHT I was supposed to do. And then he calmly said to me, “Yoga is a practice of self-inquiry. It’s not just about what the teacher told you to do.”  He went on to tell me how he see this as one of the big issues with yoga in our society today. People ask the teacher, “Is this the right way to do it? Is this the right pose?” They decide to give their power to the teacher instead of diving into that journey of what the heart of the practice is all about: self-discovery.

After hearing those words and a few suggestions on his behalf, I have decided that it’s time for me to take charge in this journey of self-inquiry. That rather than rely on what people say is right or wrong, to discover for myself what is right or wrong for ME. And I am opening myself up to giving my students that same right. Because they are all adults and hopefully, we can all figure it out on our own terms, in our own time, with a sense of curiosity and a deep appreciation for the offerings of yoga.