The key to learning anything is taking a personal interest (also read, responsibility) in the subject matter.
There is a cooperative effort or energetic exchange that must take place for learning to occur.
Initially, there is the cooperation between teacher and student. To simplify: A student brings his/her willingness to learn and the teacher brings his/her willingness to teach. In the process there has to be a cooperation between students and their body, students and their mind, students and their emotions, even student and their props or other resources (eg. references, books, articles, videos). Keep in mind, teachers are always students as well.
We've all experienced teachers saying things in our class that we don't really hear or understand, but then we get into a new situation, where another teacher says the same thing (perhaps in a different way) and somehow it sinks in and we hear it. When the student is ready the teacher will come. It is a challenge to be ready to learn everything that is being taught. Therefore, we want to develop our abilities as a student, so we hear more, see more, and experience more of the valuable lessons being shared.
Kathleen made a great point in her class that yoga is filled with obstacles that we have to overcome. Interestingly, I'd mentioned earlier that morning in a class I taught that life is full of challenges, and yoga creates challenges to help us learn to overcome them. When we learn to overcome challenges inside the studio, we are better able to overcome them outside it.
Personally, I've always tried to welcome challenge, because my experience has been that it is through my most challenging times that I've gained the most. However, when we are initially faced with challenges many different things can occur: We can run. We can hide. We can complain. We can blame. We can get angry. We can cry. We can attach ourselves to negative thinking and self-fulfilling failure. There are many different kinds of reactions and we have all experienced them at one time or another in an effort to avoid a real or perceived pain.
I keep something Kquvien DeWeese mentioned in class front and center during challenging times. "Stay behind the chaos." She explains that we have to stay behind the anxiety, the fight-or-flight response, the fear, or the real or perceived pain we encounter when faced with an obstacle. Granted, some challenges are easier to do that with than others, but it works. Although, my father who suffers from agoraphobia has not been as successful with the advice that I shared. He sees the possibilities and feels if he could train himself to stay behind the anticipation of pain in his mind, he could make progress. However, he knows he has a habit of immediately giving himself up to his anxiety... and habits are hard to break.
BKS Iyengar in Tree of Yoga (click)says:
"Yoga is meant for individual growth and for physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual defects to be removed. It is designed for the removal of fluctuations and afflictions, pains and sorrows."Teachers are important to bring things to our attention that we can't see for ourselves. Habits are one of them. We can have physical habits as well as mental and emotional habits. They all come into play when we are challenged to learn something new or do something we perceive as painful. Oftentimes, whatever the challenge, it usually involves letting go of one or two of our habits (we have many, many habits). That takes practice and not just practice in a classroom full of other students.
I've heard Nancy Mau and Kquvien mention the importance of shall I say doing our homework as well --even if we have a daily practice in the classroom. The classroom is meant to introduce poses, concepts, and instruction. It is the responsibility of the student to take those introductions and evolve them into a personal experience. Why does it hurt when I do it this way and not that? What is making this pose uncomfortable? What am I afraid of? Why don't I feel warmed up enough to do this? What is preventing me from moving deeper in the pose. Though Iyengar has masterfully given us detailed directions to get into and out of poses, Nancy Mau explains that we are all individuals and we have to assess what those directions mean for us and our particular bodies. Only experience with the pose and its multifaceted elements can gain that kind of insight.
BKS Iyengar in Tree of Yoga (click)says:
"Experience is real; words are not real. They are somebody else's words, but it is your own experience. When stability in experience is sustained and when the feeling of experiences does not waver, it is samadhi." (click word)As you may notice, I am repeating the quotes from Part 1 of this series, because repetition is another important element in the process of learning. Repetition helps us gain deeper and deeper understanding.
Upon this reading of Iyengar's quotes, you may experience a more profound meaning than you did in the first reading. Much like what will happen if you practice and repeat your poses integrating all your learning along the way.