A little yoga knowledge can be dangerous. By Victoria Jackson.
People sometimes ask my husband what it’s like being married to a yoga teacher. Honestly I had no idea this was an interesting question, but I guess people like to make stories in their heads about the yoga lifestyle and the level of dedication it might entail and the impact on one’s nearest and dearest. “Does she make you do yoga?” is often the follow-up question, proving that they’ve not met my hubby before: just try making him do anything he doesn’t want to do! But in case you’re still wondering… yes, he does do yoga! He doesn’t go to classes but he has a very lovely home practice – from what I’ve seen when I’m allowed to peek at him in full flow!
Although our practices are quite different, of course my yoga habits do rub off a bit and, just as my husband brings his work home in various ways, I also can’t help talk shop sometimes. Now I’m starting to realise that he has acquired some rather esoteric knowledge from me. His own practice is staunchly physical and he avoids what he calls all the philosophy and spiritual mumbo-jumbo. And yet he has a pretty good understanding of yoga history and the major lineages and he has even picked up some Sanskrit terms, albeit in a slightly confused way.
Sometimes he makes blunders that really amuse me. The funniest (bear with me, my yoga humour is an acquired taste) was when he mistook Utkatasana for Utkranti. He was muddling up the posture known in English as Awkward Pose or Chair Pose with the notion of ‘yogic suicide’ found in the traditional texts, where one can, it is said, migrate the soul into another’s body, effectively killing one’s physical self. While it’s not uncommon in a yoga class for there to be some confusion between Utkatasana (Chair Pose) and Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), I’m grateful most students don’t know the word Utkranti – otherwise the consequences of misunderstanding would be much more interesting! Could this be the plot line for some yoga-zombie crossover film, I wonder?
I also find it hilarious that my husband can muddle up the perfectly standard pose Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the more esoteric Vajroli Mudra, whereby a man sucks semen or other fluids up through the urethra. While this is well-known detail in the Sanskrit yoga texts, as far as I know it’s not part of my husband’s regular practice! Nor is it something I teach, I should add. Though I’m still disconcerted to realise it must have featured in our dinner-time conversation at least once.
All in all I think it’s just as well my husband doesn’t attend public classes very often. A little knowledge is dangerous and who knows what chaos could ensue if he misunderstood an instruction from the teacher…!
Victoria Jackson lives and teaches in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance Professionals as a vinyasa yoga teacher. Read more of Victoria’s OM Lite columns.