Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Slow to Learn

Most mothers worry when their children are late to sit up, or late to teethe, or late to walk or talk. My mother worried when at age 3; I could not yet stand on my head. I didn’t master it until I was five.

I rank standing on my head along with swimming, bicycling, and reading as one of the most enjoyable learned experiences of my life. Sorry readers – I do not consider sex to be a learned activity – yes there are learning aspects, but everybody starts out able to do it as soon as the hormones kick in.

Two of my regular yoga teachers include headstands in every class. Students who don’t know how yet, hang upside down on the rope wall, or do their headstands next to a wall so they can catch themselves if they fall. Those of us who can stand on our heads easily, do them in the middle of the room.

After my accident, I had to hang from the ropes for 4 months. Then I progressed to doing headstands against the wall. Now, 7 months later, I’m finally doing them in the middle of the room again. I consider this to be a major victory on the recovery route.

One of the teachers noticed that I still can’t do any of the poses that require flexibility in my left hip. She set me up with a balancing device called a trestler. Fine. I’ll take all the help I can get. Then she told me I should not be doing head stands because I cannot do the standing poses. She says in her training, it is not considered safe to stand on your head until you can do the standing poses.

I used to be able to do the standing poses – before the accident. The fact that my shoulder has healed up enough to allow me to stand on my head before my hip has healed enough to allow me to get into the standing poses, is just the way my body is healing. It makes no sense to me to deny myself the pleasure of what I can do while waiting for other parts to heal.

I learned the yoga poses in the official order. Now, I’m relearning them in the order my body can handle them. I’m not a beginner any more.

I had friends whose children learned to walk without ever crawling. It would make no sense to forbid them to walk.

I used to think my yoga teachers were trying to keep me safe, and teaching me to do what I could handle in a sensible progression. Now I have to learn when to tell my yoga teachers to let me decide what is safe.

I’ve trusted teachers all my life, unless they were blatantly teaching things I knew weren’t true. Then I cooked their goose in front of the whole class. I’m an education addict. Even though I still believe teachers are well-meaning, here I am a grey-haired geezer, finally learning that they are not the best arbiters of when I should learn what.


  1. You never knew a girl named Deirdre who was in Ames in a "downtown" school. We became friends in 6th grade and through high school. She had a 3rd grade teacher I think who told her that the Sun was NOT a star. Deirdre knew it was, and said from that moment on she knew teachers could be idiots.

  2. Alison,
    I'd have liked Deirdre. The idiot teachers are easy to spot. It's harder when they have been excellent teachers for so long and then they make a foolish blunder.

    I'll never forget the biology teacher that I got fired from the University because she didn't know the material. One example. She said that anti-diuretic drugs make people urinate MORE. I gave her the Latin origins of the words immediately. She challenged me to show her textbooks that agreed with me. I brought in 6 textbooks. She looked at the copyright dates and none had the current year. Like a medical term is going to change meanings over the years? I brought in one textbook with the current copyright year. She complained that it was only ONE book. I asked her where she got her information. She said she was reading her notes from when she took the class. After that I went to the department chair. She was gone at the end of the semester.