When you know a great deal about something - whether it's your passion, your job, or both - it's very easy to overthink basic elements about it. Actors often have a hard time just sitting back and purely enjoying a show or movie without analyzing or critiquing elements of it that might not bother anyone else (I call it having his "Critical Pants" on too tight when Marc does this with a show I love). My future brother-in-law is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I highly doubt he ever watches a match purely for enjoyment without having some seriously analytical, critical insights and very strong opinions.
It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can sometimes turn our passion into a grind instead of, well, a passion.
One way in which this has manifested itself for me is massively overthinking my posture. Posture is one of the most central elements of yoga - whether you're standing in tadasana, tree pose, on the subway, or sitting in meditation, the posture is where it all begins.
I've been reading and rethinking posture as I've been (slowly) reading ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer. The book is all about running from your center, working with gravity and not against it, and keeping your core strong and your limbs soft and relaxed, so your legs don't have to do nearly as much work as in typical "power" running. It's a hell of a lot to take in, and I really feel like I need a teacher to take me through all the work and specifics the book is talking about.
So far, I'm starting small by focusing on running with parallel feet instead of my natural turnout. Yoga has helped me seriously reduce my natural turnout (which I have thanks to 13-or-so years of ballet) which in turn is only going to help my knees, hips, pelvis, lower back - all kinds of fun stuff. It's been an interesting way to stay "tuned in" while I run instead of just totally letting my mind go wherever it wants to. In a strange way, running has become a lot more similar to yoga for me in the last couple of weeks because of this book.
My really big postural breakthrough came yesterday, though, as I took a Pilates training with the amazing Michelle Pritchard of Evolution Pilates. Three other lucky teachers and I were there to learn more about Pre/Post-Natal Pilates and we spent a good 9 hours practicing and learning Pilates. Michelle, who has an unbelievable eye after years of teaching Pilates, was constantly on me about my shoulders. I had no idea how inefficient my posture had become - I was tensing my shoulderblades together in an attempt to avoid slouching without realizing that just letting my shoulders rest comfortably was actually good posture.
In ChiRunning, Danny Dreyer calls it "Body Sensing" when you consciously bring awareness to your body's position in space - notice what it looks like and what it feels like, because they're often two different things. When I run with parallel feet, for example, it feels very weird and like I'm running pigeon-toed. What I feel like I'm doing and what I'm actually doing are very different things. With my posture, I'm trying so hard to have Perfect Yoga Posture that I'm actually putting strain on myself - no wonder I always have so much tension around my traps!
By directing my focus to running and Pilates as well as continuing with my yoga practice and teaching, I'm finding so many ways in which my practice and teaching are being enriched. Variety really must be the spice of life, it seems. It keeps the Critical Pants, Teacher Brain, and the risk of burnout at bay when you keep a healthy mix of interests along with whatever might be your greatest passion.