A few years ago, I used to teach Yoga in a neighborhood center.
I am waiting outside, relaxing before my class, when a lady, sitting on a bench, who has been staring at me for a while, asks me: “You’re the sportscoach ?
When I nod my head to tell her that I am, indeed, the teacher, that lady goes on, in an oddly wrathful way: “Come on, you don’t look like it !”
My first reaction was to be slightly stunned… After all, it’s not everyday that I can hear someone speak so frankly, and she’s displaying the kind of facial expression that I would display if I were talking to a person defecating on my yard…
It might have been my hawaïan shirt, not really looking like a Yoga or a fitness-related outfit, or it might have been my body, that demonstrates my taste for fine cuisine… I will never know, for that lady wasn’t here to attend my class, but another one… Still, her comment made me think ; how could people see that I’m good at what I do ?
I teach people how to inhabit their body, to develop a benevolent and friendly attitude towards it (hence this website’s name). People coming to become my students do not come to me because of what I can do, but because of the way I can help them. Friendly Body is based on a the same mindset as meditation or spirituality: we explore our corporal sensations and play with them, and Friendly Body’s exercices are only a pretext, a mere opportunity that we consciously use to discover ourselves, and not a tool to achieve a goal. And that, dear reader, sums up the problem: how do you depict a good practitioner of an art, if the pursued goal is different from one person to another ? what is the detail that one would have to pay attention to, in order to spot a person with a remarkable self-awareness or self-benevolence ?
I’ve had many names, throughout my career (it almost sounds like an immortal being’s statement, haha): Yoga-, Pilates-, or Qigong-teacher… physical trainer, psycho-corporal therapist, and a few others. Yet, I don’t recognize my work there, neither in these names, nor in their usual iconography (be it in magazines, on billboards or on websites): I don’t want to brag about my abs (well… when I can see them), I don’t want to brag about an outfit such as a chinese silky pajama, and I don’t want to brag about my flexibility by showing a picture in which I twist my spine under the setting sun.
Mark my words, all these pictures are great: I like them all, it’s just that it doesn’t mean that the essence of my work is understood at all…
In the beginning, this was a dilemma to me: what would be my ideal logo ?
This question matured in my head, until I realized that it couldn’t have a clear answer, for my work is inherently personal. The Friendly Body logo is just a person squatting and stretching, because I enjoy this stance, and that’s about it…
For a person practicing meditation, it would be absurd to ask for a “spiritual enlightment certificate”: the best a teacher can do is testifying that you were here when the lessons were taught, and guessing, on the basis of your conversations, that you understand the teachings… In no case would this teacher be able to be sure of your understanding of the art, because this person cannot speak about you: it only is someone’s perceived self talking about its perception of your own self…
By focusing on the result of a training, it can be possible to loose its essence. That is not necessarily the same thing regarding every field: it could seem logical to listen to a piano teacher, when you want to play this instrument, and it would seem logical to show that you can properly execute powerlifting exercices if you want to be a teacher (then again, there are great teachers who are poor practitioners, and vice-versa, because of so many reasons, ranging from an incapacitating wound to many other things). But when you want to place your awareness on your own sensations, it is a completely different story.
When you teach a know-how, it can be interesting to show that you “know how”, but the way I pratice with my body is focused on the process, not the result: it is a mindset, and if I can, indeed, see that a person is obviously not treating his/her body benevolently, but I cannot be sure about what’s happening in the mind of a student… I can only propose explorations, at best.
If I am judging a movement from the perspective of it’s external form, and propose an exercise, such as push-ups, the quality will obviously be different if an athlete is compared to a an arthritic octogenarian.
On the other hand, if I am contemplating the same movement from the perspective of self-benevolence, it will be complicated for me to judge anything from the outside.
What seems certain to me, is that you can adapt your moves to your body: your awareness and self-benevolence will allow you to find the type of movements that your body likes and can do. That is why I have students with a very wide range of abilities, trying to copy my moves, and I am blessed to see them adapt these moves without any inhibition, for a very simple reason: their body isn’t mine, and what they’ve been through isn’t what I’ve been through.
Your body has its own story, and with the proper mindset, you will find a humongus number of moves, that will be powerful, beautiful, pleasant, and efficient for your own body.
That’s why, after all, if I were hearing the lady from my story again, saying that my teacher status wasn’t obvious, I would happily answer: “wonderful, you are just starting to understand my work !”