Five Things I Learned From Advanced Art of Assisting That Have Nothing To Do With Assisting

(And yet everything to do with assisting).

It’s been two weeks since I attended Advanced Art of Assisting at Baptiste Affiliate Studio SHAKTI Vinyasa Yoga in Seattle, WA. The next evolution of Art of Assisting, Advanced Art of Assising honed in on the minutia of what it takes to be a powerful hands-on assistant. We talked body parts and biomechanics. We nerded out over alignment and form. We tried on (and invented) never-before-seen assists.

But I don’t want to talk about that.

As I do from every Baptiste program, I walked away with my eyes widened and my love for yoga revived. More so, I came home with game-changing insights, the kind that impact the way I move through the world. These are them:

We get what we need at the right moment: And no more. There was a lot of information at Advanced Art of Assisting. As in a bajillion new assists. I felt the need to write down every detail so I wouldn’t forget. Then it occurred to me: our hearts and bodies absorb what we need in every moment and they leave the rest. We simply don’t need it at that stage of our lives. No need to frantically jot down everything. When it is its turn, it’ll arrive and be retained.

We always have to start again. Always. We have to eat again. Sleep again. Wake up again. Practice yoga again. Return to program. So it’s not a big deal to get distracted in meditation or fall out of a pose; start again. It’s no different how large the scale or how high the stakes. 

Creativity is an energy-saver. All weekend, we were encouraged to show up without all our heavily stored information. Instead of stepping on someone’s mat, scrolling through the files of my brain to recall an assist, I was being asked to create from nothing. Turns out, creativity is way less exhausting and more fun. It’s the same as teaching yoga or having a conversation. To create from emptiness—from “I don’t know”—leaves room for magic.

Which leads me to my next a-ha: “I don’t know” is freeing. Being a (somewhat) experienced yoga teacher and having led some hands-on assisting trainings at other studios was all my ego needed to walk in the door with “I know that already.” This overcompensation delves from “I’m not good enough” and a fear of being found out. When I brought “I know that already” to the table, I left zero possibility to experience anything new. So I practiced saying “I don’t know.” It’s not “I completely forget all my tools and experiences.” It’s: “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m dropping the assist I have planned to allow space for us to create something we couldn’t have imagined instead.”

And finally: Messy is essential to being great. I dropped a fellow participant on his head in wheel. He smiled and told me it was fine, but I was horrified that I’d completely botched the assist. That wasn’t the first (or last) time I messed up all weekend. About the 50th time messing up it hit me: messing up is necessary for growth. It’s a sign that we’re taking risks. Messing up is essential to the creative process, to contributing something that’s never been done before. It has to be messy before it’s mastered.

Jessica Kenny is a writer who teaches yoga or yoga teacher who writes, depending on the day. For a long time she did neither and was not very happy. She is a Certified Baptiste Teacher in San Francisco and contributes articles to many online and print publications. You can keep up with Jess and her ginger self on her website and Instagram.

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Thank you for this! I’m just starting out as a teacher, so messy is my FIRST name :-)

Anna Johnson on April 24, 2015

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