Beauty, power & love: One yogis journey through the art of assisting

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Beauty, power & love: One yogis journey through the art of assisting

Ariane Belisle, photographer, writer and Lumi member shares a personal view from the mat: 

I signed up to Baptiste Yoga’s Art of Assisting with very few preconceptions about the weekend intensive program. At best, I hoped it would provide me with a greater sense of my corporal awareness, and improve my posture and physical alignment on the mat. Little did I know, I would be gaining so much more than that.

As a fairly new yogi, I was stupidly nervous as I entered the Lumi studio on Friday at 11:30 am. I knew the room well; it was the same space I had visited every day for the past few months. Over time, the room had come to symbolize so much more than a blunt physical space. Day after day, it sparked an unparalleled level of serenity and calm within me, and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the world outside. Its consistency was endlessly comforting. On Friday however, the space felt vastly different; the room buzzed with positive energy as yogis (all ridiculously advanced, in my mind!) scurried to find a place for their mat. “Be cool! Act like you belong!” I kept telling myself; those six words played on repeat in my mind like a broken record. I was quickly comforted by Ari and Elina’s warm smiles and words of encouragement. My nerves morphed into excitement. Isn’t yoga about navigating through discomfort and pushing your mental and physical boundaries, I thought to myself. Maybe this doesn’t need to be so scary after all.

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Paige Elenson and Tami Schneider lead the program; their positive energy was infectious. They surveyed the room and I was relieved to find out that not everyone was a “ridiculously advanced” teacher. Many people, like me, were students looking to deepen their practice. This put my mind at ease.

Prior to the weekend, I had never given assisting much thought. As I lay in bed on Saturday evening unable to sleep as my mind and body were still buzzing with so much vitality from the day’s activities, I thought about this subtle art based on touch, intuition and service. Of course, laying the correct groundwork and alignment for a pose is core to the practice. Yet, there is sometimes more value in withholding from forcing your preconceived idea of a posture onto the practitioner. An assistant’s role is to serve by guiding, offering support, props, verbal cues and care.

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After three of most intensely physical days of my entire life, I had stretched my body in ways I didn’t think were possible and achieved my first handstand and forearm stand through the awesome support of my various assisting partners. Needless to say, I left the studio on Sunday with a better sense of my corporal alignment on the mat (my original intent), but it also triggered a hunger within me to go deeper and toy with the boundaries of my comfort zone. So here’s what I really learnt:

  1. Smile, laugh, lighten up and have fun. Literally let your hair down and bob up and down while doing some frog hops! Yoga isn’t meant to be solemn and bleak. This is your practice and your journey, so enjoy every minute of this crazy ride.
  2. Vulnerability leads to community. I encourage you to watch Brené Brown’s TED talk (The Power of Vulnerability). I live close to the Lumi studio and previously my routine was this: arrive two to five minutes prior to the beginning of class, set up mat, practice yoga, roll mat, go home. By leaning into my own discomfort, vulnerabilities and insecurities, the walls I had set up around myself somehow came down and I was able to build real, genuine and authenticate connections with the amazingly inspiring people who practice yoga next to me every day.
  3. When you let go of your fear, amazing things can happen. If I apply this principle in a literal sense, I turned my world upside down by nailing my first handstand… something I had previously been too afraid to even attempt. On a more metaphysical level, when you visit the space just beyond your comfort zone, magic happens.

A huge heartfelt thank you to Ari and Elina and everyone at Baptiste!