People make funny faces in yoga class.
Sometimes I think it's funny (I stick my toungue out sometimes when I'm concentrating really hard - check out the pic! And yes - I have gotten made fun of plenty for this faux pas, and not just in yoga). Sometimes, from the standpoint of instructor, when I see people making faces I feel like I'm terribly mean and students are not having fun, then I realize that regardless of how they are interpreting me, they still came to my class for instruction, and like it or not, that's what I'm givin' 'em. But when when I see yoga practitioners in my class making faces, it also reminds me to lighten up and quit being such a hard-ass.
This begs the question - should yoga be fun? I mean, back in the day of the origins of yoga in India - those dedicated men practicing to "prepare their containers" for the energy surges of meditation - did they have fun? Did they joke around? Did they laugh in practice? And is it too limiting to hold them up as an example for our modern, western interpretation of what yoga is and for what purpose it is used nowadays? I'd like to say that in most cases our intention hasn't strayed too far off that original mark, but we've all been to a yoga class geared for physical fitness - so as not to "scare off" any potential students who don't feel comfortable chanting om. I haven't been to India yet, nor have I studied with a mentor from the motherland, but I have heard that you don't mess around in those classes. Want to or not - when they say jump, you say "how high?". And I suppose that's what we western yogis go on pilgrimage to work with the great masters to do - to get a less watered-down version of what we think we know from home. To get a good, old-fashioned butt whuppin' and to say thank you when it's over. To use it as a catalyst to spur our practice on to greater depth.
There are pros and cons to each side here - that of a fun practice and that of a strict practice.
My meditation teacher is constantly reminding me to find the joy in my practice. Otherwise - what will keep me coming back to my cushion? This too is true of the mat. Without some measure of fun we will quickly brow-beat ourselves into quitting altogether. If we didn't find some fun, someting to smile about, why would we come back? But this, in the end, isn't a toddler's gymnastics class, and without some level of discipline, there would be no progression - no deepening.
There is certainly, a sense of accomplishment felt when we commit to something challenging. It appeals to that streak of militaristic order that runs stronger in some of us than in others. Those that approach their yoga practice as boot camp...I see it in their eyes - they don't always appreciate my jokes. It's like a joke takes the validity out of their practice. But I love a joke - especially when things are getting hard - because you have to poke fun at your consciousness, you have to shake yourself up to test your resolve; to see what you are made of in the face of varying conditions, where off the mat, you don't get to control your environment - the quietness, temperature and atmosphere of difficult situations. Why not shake things up on the mat with some laughter and see how well you hold that Sirsasana, headstand, hmmm?
I like to think my class is a healthy blend of discipline and challenge on the one hand, and silliness and fun on the other. That those funny faces are their own version of my I sticking my tongue out - just a physical expression of mental concentration. I will not apologize for being silly. It's a part of my personality that makes me, for one, love my practice. When I say or do something funny, it just allows a release of pent up energy that I never even knew was pent up.
So within the context of your highly disciplined, very serious and dedicated yoga practice, let the joy bubble up! ...Like bubbles in a bath tub... ;)
As a student of yoga, massage, meditation , poetry and other such introversions, I figured some of my inspirations might also touch the hearts of others. Read, ruminate, digest, create...always returning to this well of deep love inside to renew ourselves and rediscover what we are. Enjoy!