That’s me on the first session of my 2016 Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). I registered for the six month training with the thought of improving my practice and had only a tiny thought that the training would become the groundwork for my teaching. At that time the very thought of teaching quite unnerved me – maybe you know that sensation – butterflies that do not settle, a digestive system that does not calm.
In the photo Paula, one of our three YTT teachers, is handing me a glass container with a candle inside and my name hand-written on the outside. The candle was a gift of welcome to light my way, a similar candle given to each student.
My entire training was an exercise in taking my practice and my journey to my gentle edge.
Take it to your gentle edge of expression – where any more would be too much, and any less would be too little.
This is a sentiment I have heard numerous times from various yoga teachers, and it always brings to mind Lev Vygotsky and his idea of ZPD, Zone of Proximal Development. In yoga the edge is “a place of neither too much nor too little stretch” and “unless you find your edge, there is no growth, no learning, and no change.” (Michael Lee, from Kripalu Yoga, A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat, chapter 4.)
Vygotsky believed that children could learn from watching and following adults, with the adult assisting the child to go beyond what the child was able to do on their own. This place, where the child has gone as far as possible on their own – their gentle edge – and was ready to go beyond, was the zone of proximal development. He felt that optimal learning experiences should take place in each child’s ZPD, with that zone being specific to each learner.
I have learned yoga through a combination of observing my teachers, following their cues, giving my teachers permission to make subtle changes in my postures, and practicing regularly. My teachers, especially in my 200-hour training, have taken me beyond what I could do on my own. They have helped me get to my gentle edge of expression and over time, with their assistance and my practice, the placement of that gentle edge has shifted. They have met me in my ZPD and guided me beyond.
Yoga and psychology, a gentle meshing of both.