Blind Spots

So the blog has gone very quiet for awhile, I know.  Some because I got pretty busy with the rest of my life, which is a good thing.  Mostly, because I was studying.  I spent a week at the beginning of March studying with Yoga Tune-Up founder Jill Miller.  And since I’ve been back, I visited the amazing Ana Forrest as often as I can as she trained a new batch of Forrest teachers here in Boston.  (She opens her morning classes to all comers, and there have been a lot of comers.)  Why?  I felt this when I was just teaching music to kids, and feel it even more in teaching yoga- if you’re not learning, really learning, all the time you shouldn’t be teaching.  It keeps you on your toes, you never can know everything, and there’s nothing like a teacher kicking your ass to ground you and bring your ego back in line.  So off I go.

Jill Miller’s system is many things, but unlike most vinyasa styles of yoga there is a lot of small movements and specific muscle isolations.  I took a shoulder workshop with her awhile back where she went around and through the shoulder, muscle by muscle, stretching and strengthening.  She talked a lot in the training about finding “blind spots”, muscles or groups of muscles that we skip over in our movement and exercise patterns, and tailoring what you do as a teacher and/or a practitioner to address these blind spots.  We all have them, and they’re rarely the same person to person.  When you don’t explore and turn on these weaker areas, not only are they left uncultivated, you’re overworking other things to compensate, which can lead to injury and the like.  (We certainly covered lots of other stuff- Jill is a wonderful teacher and a delightful, really goofy human being.  Bostonians, Jill will be at South Boston Yoga in June.  You should go…)

Ana is big on blind spots too, but from a different angle. (interestingly, when Ana had a studio in California, Jill was one of her teachers.  Small world)  When teaching, she has a hawkeye- she manages to learn just about every name in the room on the fly, and will punctuate a cue with “Pat, relax your neck”, or “Joanna, let go of your jaw”, or the like.  To everyone, to the point where it’s almost creepy in a good way, because she’s almost always right. There was one class where I think every third sentence out of her mouth was “relax your neck.”  Her overarching concern here, put perhaps less aggressively, is can you practice in a way that every movement in your body is both necessary and beneficial in each pose?

So I’ve been thinking a lot about habits and blind spots.  One day recently I was pondering these and other things as my car and I came to a stop sign on a side street in Brookline, on my way to teach a clarinet lesson.  (Non-Bostonians, it’s important to note for this story that while Boston drivers are not as bad as I think they’re perceived to be elsewhere, they do tend to take many road rules, and certainly all road courtesies, as mere suggestions.)  Two cars landed at adjacent stop signs at literally the same moment. Rather than letting the car on the right go (the technical rule in Massachusetts), they kept inching out at the same time, then braking, then inching, then stopping.  Finally, the car on the left, a red BMW with a lot of “Save the Whales” type bumper stickers on it, bounces out to the middle of the intersection and stops cold.  The man in said BMW opens his window and starts screaming at the woman he’s been playing chicken with.  She shouts back, and they yell for awhile until cars behind them, who by now have been at this stop sign for a full three minutes, start a little car horn symphony and eventually everyone clears out, probably still fuming.

Thankfully, I was running early enough that I wasn’t one of the people flipping out. It did get me thinking, though.  For all I know, the guy in the Beemer is a wonderful human being, doing lots of charity work, petting cats and entertaining small children and the like.  But that moment certainly seemed to find his (wait for it), blind spot, where something that in retrospect isn’t a big deal got him all bats&^t.  And he didn’t have Ana Forrest to gently call him out on it like I did.

The point is we all have blind spots, and if we don’t shine a light on them, they can lead to little problems like back stiffness or road rage.  The good news is, they don’t have to be permanent conditions.  Readers, what are your perennial blind spots, on or off the mat? And strategies for dealing with them?

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