Wisdom really does stem from experience. Recently, I took an Iyengar Yoga class online with over 100 other students from all over the world. The class was taught by Genny Kapuler, a New York based teacher who I took classes with, religiously, for five years when I lived in NYC. It has been more than 15 years since I had last studied with Genny in her Soho Loft. Genny had stayed with us in Dallas when she came to teach at the Dallas Yoga Center 10 years ago, so our relationship has continued over the years, but this was the first time I had heard her teaching voice in 10 years.
I received many things from being with her recently, but what I experienced so clearly and very loudly is the notion that the layers of meaning in the words of a great teacher are only accessible in stages that are necessarily tied to our own experience. In other words, we can only hear what we are ready for and, therefore, there is always so much that will only be revealed in time, after many years of coming back to our practice consistently and over time. One can hear this very same idea in the ancient yogic texts and I knew it to be true, but practicing with the primary teacher from my formative years, after many years of not practicing with her, allowed me to feel just how true it is.
Returning to a class with Genny was so familiar and, yet, I experienced myself so differently and I heard her words so differently because I have changed. All of the anatomical structures and the words we use to describe movement don’t register fully until our experience catches us up to the words and ideas. My experience of coming back, again and again, to myself and my practice of movement and locating, feeling, finding myself through this practice allows me to hear Genny’s words so differently, and perhaps more fully than ever before.
I have been saying this statement a lot lately, “You hear what you are ready to learn.”
I don’t think Genny is saying anything profoundly different than she would have said years ago, even though she has certainly evolved in her own ways, but I hear and understand her differently.
Fifteen or twenty years ago, when I took classes with Genny, I was preoccupied with all things related to the exterior form. After every weekly class, I would diligently write her sequence down. I was completely focused upon the form and trying to understand why she sequenced the poses the way she did and why she chose the variations of the postures as she did. At the time, her poetic words and other deeper and more complex ideas of relating to the body just washed over me. As must be the case!
I know at the time that her words were seeping in somewhere, somehow, and sometimes landing in some semblance of understanding, but most of the time they really did wash over me like waves because her words did not mean something to me… yet. Her words flowed through me and I remember thinking I will never understand why she says what she says.