Lately my mind has been drawn over and over to the concept of the “the individual expression vs collective well being of the group/community.” It is the clash that you see with a company getting bigger, government making decisions, roommates learning to cohabit-ate, or intergenerational families defining their identities amongst a shifting tide of cultural norms. It is a BIG topic that manifests in almost every facet of life. This theme of self expression AND community somehow working harmoniously together, at times, can seem like juxtaposing ideals. What we’ve learned within this beautiful space, is that the foundations of strong communication, patience, empathy, and deep purpose are what we need if we want to allow space for both ideals to grow and thrive.
In our studio, there have been a few conversations between students and staff around modifying postures, as well as inversions such as headstands. There is a desire from some of our clientele to venture outside the “formula” of our series, and we’ve had to discuss the idea of “when does modifying a pose become more of a distraction vs a modification, and should those that modify be asked to move away from the mirror so as not to distract other students”.
Here are my answers:
Q: I love to do inversions like headstands. If I’m safe about it and have it in my regular practice, can I please bust it out?
A: Not all inversions are created equal. If you are in a position whereby if you lost your balance, you could topple over onto someone beside you, injure your back/neck OR if you are taking any Modo class with an instructor guiding a sequence, you may not be going into inversions. If you happen to be in the room with lots of space, the class has not yet started, and you want to bust out your own thing… please be discrete and aware that there are people that may never do that kind of an inversion in the lifetime of their practice; as a result, we don’t want to encourage that as a “peak pose” necessarily within our student body. Particularly in a hot room, the sweat and heat are not conducive to certain postures being done safely, and we don’t want to encourage them especially to students that are not meant to be bearing weight in their bodies in that way. Our sequences are designed to offer the benefits of inversions through gentle, safe “head below heart” postures without putting the spine/neck/shoulders at risk. With all these caveats, we don’t want to dampen your exploratory spirit. If you are itching to do an inversion, do it in your own time before/after class… with lots of space, and with discretion please! If we hear that you are crashing down beside someone…. no bueno.
Q: I’m injured and I need to modify my poses for many postures, but the teacher has asked me to follow along with the group…. I’m confused!
A: This IS confusing! At Modo, we strive to be accessible and healthy – that means allowing people to modify their postures to provide therapeutic benefit to their practice within the context of an intelligent sequence. HOWEVER, we also realize there are a lot of students that just want clear guidance and look to the front of the room to follow instruction. It can be difficult for our teachers to guide a big group if there are students that go completely off script. So, here are some guidelines around modifications: We encourage the use of blocks and straps to your heart’s content in any pose. Use blocks to bring the floor closer to you, use straps to give your arms more length in order to keep that spine aligned! We love to see you play with those variations. We also encourage subtle modifications eg: bending a knee, arms down instead of up, bending the arms, coming to the floor when you need extra relief etc.
Q: If I like to modify, does that mean I have to stand away from the mirror now?
A: No, not necessarily. However, If you are the kind of person that needs to modify most of your poses to the point where they might be confusing to others, then we’d ask for you to stand away from the mirror. I’m not talking about people that need to take breaks and do child’s pose and/or keep a toe on the ground for tree pose… I’m more speaking to the students who have an advanced understanding of what their body needs that might want to, for example, go into seated side-angle pose in order to gain the same benefits as crescent moon pose. We are trying to strike a balance between options for an advanced injured practitioner, and the reality of guiding a large group of bodies that are looking for clear, straight forward instruction. Similar to inversions, the reality is that we are practicing in community; as in any community, there are people that will want and/or need to watch other people and emulate others as they build their confidence and understanding. Our teachers want to make sure that their students are working together in a safe manner, and it can be difficult for them to do that if someone is going “off script”. Our teachers are more than happy to offer appropriate modifications if you feel you need them in any given pose. Feel free to talk with them before or after class. Your safety is their #1 priority.
Q: What does this mean for me?
A: I realize that for some that are reading this, it has absolutely no bearing on your practice. For some, this might be a nice reminder that yes you can modify your poses and LISTEN to your body; for others, you might feel relief because you’ve been distracted by other students; and yet for others, you might feel uncomfortable not knowing if you might be “that person”. This letter is by no means wanting to call anyone out – it’s just a reminder that we all have individual needs in our practice AND that we work in the context of a greater community. To be mindful of both is the line that we walk in life and in our studio.
If you are unsure, we kindly ask that you approach the instructor before class to discuss your injury and variations that might be suitable. They are a wealth of knowledge, particularly around modifications.
If you ever want to chat, have any questions/concerns about this note or anything else that’s going on at the studio, I’m always available: Call me: (778) 855-5064.