Asking my students to “sigh it out”? Big sigh…

YS6“Sigh it out…” our yoga teacher pleaded.

Boy did I want to. On a hot, humid, yoga floor in Tribeca (Lyons Den Power Yoga), I’d just completed 45 minutes or so of tough Asana practice under the watchful eye and strong hands of a powerful fellow Baptiste-inspired teacher who worked all of us into a state of near exhaustion. She knew this, of course, and led us into a Balasana (Child’s Pose) as our reward. The perfect opportunity to…

Sigh. Audibly. With Abandon. And with permission!

And yet…not a peep. From any of us. Dead silence. What was happening here?

I used to hate this cue. I swore as a new teacher I’d never, EVER, ask my students to “sigh it out.” It sounded dorky to me. In past practices, when I heard other students “sigh it out”, I inwardly cringed (okay, maybe outwardly. Sigh). But recently, I’ve been asking myself just what the hell I’m so hung up on when it comes to this harmless instruction. I basically ask my students to do the same thing all the time – just with different words:

“Exhale through the mouth.” “Let it out.” “Make some noise.”

Really now. What’s the difference? Aren’t I saying the same thing? After some reflection, I’m beginning to realize that no, I’m not saying the same thing at all. I’m basically asking them to release something. But not quite everything:

“Exhale through the mouth,” allows them the opportunity to release a little or a lot. There’s an opportunity in that instruction to hold back. Not good.

Same goes for “Let it out” and “Make some noise”. Let how much out? A little or lot? Make some noise? How about a ton of freakin’ noise? Clearly not asking my students to truly let it all go.

“Sigh it out” pretty much says it all. Tough to really sigh timidly. That would be more of a whimper, not a sigh.

I’m also realizing my troubled past with this cue had very much to do with striving to be in control. Even when face down in a pile of sweat on my mat after a hard sequence. To “sigh it out” meant, in my mind, to relent. To quit. To lose face. In life, I resisted sighing anything out. Sore after a dismal half marathon time? I ran harder on dead legs the next day instead of resting. Heartbroken and emotionally crushed after a failed relationship? I chose a feigned smile and everything-is-fine facade over the loving shoulders of dear friends on my side.

In time, thankfully, I started sighing it out. And witnessing a more authentic, and empowered, life for myself. So, dear students, if you begin to hear “sigh it out” in class, don’t be alarmed. Just make a lot of freakin’ noise and enjoy it.

 

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