Yoga Drill Sergeant

RIP R. Lee Ermey

​I don’t want to freak any of my yogis out, but I see everything.

When I was an Army Drill Instructor, we learned to pay attention to detail. There was nothing different from when I was in basic training. Or when we had inspections on active duty. You learned to not miss any little thread, grain of dust, or smudge on a shiny surface. I measured the width of my underwear so it was exact to 1/16 of an inch. We used a Bic lighter to burn off even the smallest thread on our uniforms. You had to be precise with everything.

Just as a sidenote, you have to learn to be precise. In my work, if I received a message from a General or the President, I couldn’t be even one letter off in my transmission. If an artillery gunner is off by a digit on a grid coordinate, it could mean the life or death of friendly troops or civilians. You just can’t be wrong in combat.

I know the stakes are not so high in yoga. But the eye that I’ve trained all these years now applies to yoga. I have an imprint in my mind of many shapes. And its not just shapes, it is what Pattabhi Jois called "energy lines". If a drishti or bandhas are not used properly in Ashtanga, you can actually see a disrupted line. I would even go as far to say that you can feel it. Its like being an empath. You can feel when a yogi is perplexed, discombobulated, or frustrated. When you get close, you can sense it in their breath.

Its like a Yoga Teacher Superpower!

I can glance down a line of yogis and immediately see a leg that isn’t straight when it should be. I can see a yogi slightly leaning forward in Warrior 2. I can see toes scrunched up in pyramid pose from across the room. I can swoop right over with the speed of sound and fix the issue.

When I was in the Army, I could change the emotions of my troops in a heartbeat. We sometimes did what was called a Backdraft. In a fire, a re-introduction of a lot of oxygen, like breaking a window or opening a door can cause a blast of fire that can be very dangerous. So in the middle of the night, we would bring mass Drill Instructors raining down fire and brimstone on sleepy troops. We’d have them put their PT gear on and in less than 2 minutes have them outside doing flutter kicks, front leaning rests, and radioactive dying cockroaches. I’m sure it wasn’t a fun time for them. But we could also do the opposite. We could bring them so high that they were smiling and screaming at the top of their lungs. Pride and espirit de corps!! It was a roller coaster that we had total control over.

In yoga, we set the atmosphere. In a chill class, we keep the brain waves at a nice even keel. In Rocket Yoga, I get them cranking pretty fast and include some hard music jams in the mix. In Candlelight yoga last night, I make it very soothing and refreshing. There is a time and place for every energy and emotion.

It is such an honor to provide people what they are looking for. It isn’t just a set of movements. It is an emotional and physical drama that is set in this special scene. Mastery of how it plays out comes with practice. We never arrive. We continue to build our craft. And yogis continually become masters of their minds and bodies.

I love this journey!

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