Street-Smart Yogi Or Book-Smart Yogi.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Street-smart -intelligence gained outside of school

  • Getting Along With Others
  • Common Sense
  • Self-defense
  • BS-detection

Book-smart -having a lot of academic knowledge learned from books and studying, but not necessarily knowing much about people and living in the real world.

  • He’s book-smart but, he’s got no common sense.
  • book-smart people with no social skills

Street-smart -having the knowledge and experience that is needed to deal with the difficulties and dangers of life in a big city.

I know street-smart people, and they seem to adapt to their environment. And I also think this is necessary when teaching yoga. Situations and circumstances are not always going to be ideal. My first Hatha yoga teacher training was with Scott Miller, founder of Western Yoga College. I could feel the love radiating off of him when we met. Scott is well-read and knows the name of great thinkers, scientists, and other famous people in history. He is a book-smart yogi for sure. But Scott is also a street-smart yogi. And he can hold space when a thought, emotion, or reality plays out in yoga practice. And they do and, they will. During his teacher’s training, I learned to trust myself and adapt. Trust my intuition when adjusting a student in a posture. Teach to who shows up and their abilities. Be vulnerable and let my actions come from the heart. To believe in the power of community and chanting in community. I find I align easily with the street-smart yogi. But I cannot always live in my comfort zone. And I am a better person and teacher when pushed out of my comfort zone.

My mind thinks book-smart equals scientist while street-smart equals someone who adapts. Neither one is better than the other just, different opposite. Much like inhales and exhales, one is not better than the other we need them both; they are just opposites. I would say I am a more street-smart yogi than book-smart. That is not to say I have not read my fair share of yogic materials. And continue to seek out written information to learn from and get inspiration. Ideally, a balance of the two would be the best outcome.

I am currently teaching the YogAlign Method filled with facts and information. Before and after pictures are taken to see the shifts in the body. I know anatomy in a way that most of my students do not care to know. And statistics about yoga injuries and beyond. This information was not my cup of tea until I met my teacher and founder of the YogAlign Method, Michaelle Edwards. Her interpretation of the information made sense to me. I consider her in many ways a yoga scientist. She is testing her theories and comparing and contrasting. Her work has made it easier for me to get the results I am after with my students.

Stepping into being a book-smart yogi, I can appreciate the body in a whole new way. Understanding the diaphragm with the SIP breath and how it aligns the body from the inside out is genius. And how the gluteal muscles get amnesia from sitting too much. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation can help with resetting the tension in the body. And knowing which postures benefit scoliosis or osteoporosis. I have gained confidence in tapping into my book-smart yogi, although that is not where I would want to live all of the time.

In yoga, you will find two schools of thought dualism and nondualism. We are all one -we are all connected. And then teacher-student superiority. In the first part of my yogic student/ teacher career, I leaned very heavily towards we are all connected. I was in the honeymoon phase. Then I felt a pull towards being challenged in my thoughts and ideas. Would what I thought and believed in about yoga hold up? I did feel tested when going to the other side. I read different books and materials that approached my practice/ teaching differently. I began to appreciate and understand more about being a teacher figure in class than just everyone’s friend. Today I feel like I have found more balance between the two schools of thought. But since the pandemic, I long for those yoga gatherings and festivals where we are all connected. lol

My thoughts, ideas, attitudes, and perspectives have changed with age. I have gained more experience and insight. Yoga is not black and white. I needed to get out of my thinking head and into my feeling body. That is the way I can determine if the practice is benefitting me. I could read yoga books to my students all day and, they would not know how to practice yoga. Yoga requires thought and feeling. Some of my students are more comfortable and aware of their bodies than others. And when asked how a posture, feels one can answer. Others only want the logic of why we are doing the posture. They do not feel the difference from one side to the other. I appreciate the diversity its’ a learning experience in its self. I will never learn only through reading or only through experience but both. Street-smart yogi or book-smart yogi, some may say we are the same we, are all connected.


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