I was talking with a friend this past Sabbath about what I’m learning in my yoga teacher training. The biggest things are things you might not expect. Sure, I’m more flexible and my shoulderstands are better, but I’ve also been learning a ton about anatomy and physiology, the science of how our bodies move and it’s gone quite a bit beyond my high school biology classes. One of the reasons I chose the program I did is because it is based solidly in current anatomy, physiology, and neuroscience in order to understand what practicing yoga does to our bodies and nervous systems and how to get the most benefits. I’m a geek and this is a class more for a person into the science behind yoga and approach it more like a fitness pursuit.
And what I’m learning is pretty mindblowing, at least to me.
Just like in cooking where you’re taught hard and fast rules as if everything is a serious of unbreakable laws and then you see a Master chef purposefully break those laws, much of what I learned in high school biology, which is the last time I studied anatomy, was a bit oversimplified. The human body and brain are far more nuanced that I was taught. One person may have more ribs than another. Another may have more vertebrae or extra muscles that we don’t even know the function of. Even within a single person, they may be extremely flexible in one way, but even tighter than the person next to them in another. There is a wide variance in how one person responds to stress versus the next or how one person’s breathing affects their sympathetic nervous system. Over and over, I learn “this is how the human body is…except for this group of people, for whom it isn’t.”
All this adds up to the solid fact that you are absolutely and completely unique among all other human beings.
From your gut biome to what genes you were born with and which ones get activated by your environment to the way your brain works, your nerves fire, and your muscles work together…there never will be another you and you are only somewhat similar to the person next to you. Isn’t that pretty amazing? The exact combination of everything that you are has never been before and will never be again. I find that awe-striking beautiful.
Of course, this is important for a yoga instructor to understand, since they may be guiding a class of 30 completely different bodies and minds through positions that place stress on body and mind. We learn how to adjust for differences, where to urge students to go deeper and where to caution them to ease up and also how to help them honor and accept the difference of their body versus their neighbor’s without striving to be the same or competing.
But for me at least, this new awareness goes deeper.
The difference in your body or the way your mind works is absolutely unique and on purpose. In reality, there really is no person who is “average” or “normal” in all ways. As the mother of a young man with Autism and ADHD, this is a hugely comforting thought. Each of us is a combination of so many different variances and factors and this world would not be complete without our exact uniqueness added to it. Each of us is as intricate and complex as the universe of stars, solar systems, and galaxies and we’re even a home to a whole multitude of small organisms that work with us. All of this is beautifully and masterfully orchestrated to work together to create this thing we call “me” and I only more firmly believe that there is a higher intelligence that has designed all of this and that we each possess some small spark of that infinity that connects us to each other and to G-d.
Fearfully and wonderfully made indeed.