In my 20s I was all about Iyengar yoga. I travelled and studied with some of the premier senior Iyengar teachers at the time. In my 30s I lived and breathed Ashtanga Yoga with Pattabhi Jois in India. In my 40s I opened an Ashtanga Yoga Centre. In my 50s I quit all Yoga and started dancing, gardening and hiking, while nursing my many yoga injuries. As I neared my 6th decade, I felt as though my body was prematurely aging. I wanted to return to Yoga and find something I could wholeheartedly teach and practice for the next phase of my life.
When I tried my first Kaiut class, I got that rare feeling of a full body “Yes”. It felt pretty straight forward I thought, a simplified version of old folks yoga, perfect. I jumped in with both feet, moved from Oregon to Colorado. I started the training 2 modules late, but what the heck I, had all this experience, and I am a Rolfer/anatomy buff, I understand it better than they do… or, so I thought. My injuries, chronic hamstring tears, osteoporosis in the lumbars from chronic flat back movement, reverse cervical curve causing constant neck pain from years of imperfect headstands, not to mention all those drop over back bends that I was never built for, tightening the top of my psoas muscle causing chronic hip flexor pain, began to all feel better within 6 months. What was all this Kaiut stuff? Maybe it wasn’t just an old folks yoga. I began to see it’s brilliance and see that it could actually heal bummed up bodies. Yet when I returned to Oregon and taught a few classes, I realized something was lacking in my teaching, thus my understanding.
During the 7th module of the 10 module year long teacher training, I decided to pay better attention and come with a beginners mind. It didn’t take long to realize the problem, my knowledge was getting in the way of my ability to learn Kaiut. I had gathered all this information about the “how to’s” on each pose over the years, and I was superimposing it onto Kaiut. That weekend, I had several crucial “aha” moments.
The big “aha” was realizing that we are moving from the bones and not the muscles. This might sound simple yet it made a profound difference for me. When we tell a student to tighten the quad to make the knee straight, they turn on the larger muscles. But if we just say straighten the knee, the body will figure it out without solely firing the larger muscles groups. This then allows the smaller groups to intrinsically begin to fire which stabilize the structure. If the bones are in the right place, and we ask for compression on the joint, the body’s intelligence will turn on. This is true especially if the vagus nerve is activated, and they are drifting in parasympathetic mode. Then just enough energy will be exerted and the whole body system has the opportunity to stabilize.
Another “aha” moment for me was realizing my words were getting in the way. I wasn’t allowing my test students to drop deep because I was filling the space with philosophy and “correct” alignment technique. All I needed to offer was succinct instruction and some carefully placed words allowing the nervous system to drop deep for the method to work.
My last realization was that my perfection streak was overly interfering. The direct experience of this came in a public class when the man in front of me was doing the pose completely “incorrect”. At that moment Francisco, teaching the class, walked between us and walked all the way around this man, seeing his posture, yet he didn’t correct him. I was flabbergasted. Suddenly my theory that Francisco always had too many students in the room to correct their poses was washed down the drain. There weren’t many students that day. He was allowing what the man had integrated from his words to be the perfection of the moment. Wow!
Well, I am humbled and heartened that I get to sit in class 15 more days with Francisco Kaiut this year. I have a little more space in my psychology then I did a month ago, my ego around yoga has quieted and most importantly, I have a newfound excitement around Kaiut. My hope is that the “aha’s” keep coming for us all so we can be the best representative’s out there for this timely and needed method of Yoga.
Melanie Lancaster, Kaiut Teacher Trainee, Portland Oregon