I adjusted the hands of a student in down dog the other day; she had one much further forward than the other. She twisted to look up at me anxiously: “Are you sure? That feels really weird!” I reassured her that weird was OK. She does this every single down dog and she’s been practising a long time, so change will feel peculiar until the body adapts. Or until she forgets what she’s trying to do, and reverts back to old comfortable habits!!
I love these kinds of adjustments whenever I get them. “Left heel out a little” in Urdhva Danurāsana I was told in class the other day, and once my upside-brain had slowly processed the instruction and adjusted the foot, I tried to feel into this position. Did it feel easier or just different? Would I be able to find this place again next time?
For me yoga has always been about feeling from the inside. Tuning in and then moving outwards. This demands concentration — so much concentration. And so much honesty too. It’s easy to go onto autopilot and just will the shape to be a certain way, or ignore the scrunchy feelings in a joint because it’s just too much effort to figure out how to create more space there.
I want to teach this tuning in with my own students. Their poses are often much deeper than mine are, though I see this as often involving significant loss of integrity. How can I equip them to feel the truth of the shape and move towards that?
And meanwhile in my own practice I’m doubting and questioning everything I feel. I realise it’s not always the truth. The gap between the mind and the body can be great. Is it the intellect or the ego that leads me astray? No wonder there are so many words for ‘mind’ in Sanskrit — there are a whole load of forces at work, inserting their own narratives between the messages of my synapses. Sometimes it’s the impatient ego telling me that I can do Chaturaṇga Daṇdāsana when really my right shoulder begs to differ. Sometimes it’s fear telling me that I’ll pull my hamstring again if I keep straight legs in Paścimottanāsana. But most of the time it’s a plain incredulity that my body is doing any of this stuff! Yoga still feels like foreign country I have no right to trespass in. Everyone else makes it look so easy, when I still feel full of doubts and questions that are revealed in my hesitant body as much as in my uneasy mind.
I’m trying to attend patiently to these various mind-games and find my way to the truth, to my truth.
Sometimes this makes me smile — the mental knots we tie ourselves in during yoga!
Other days it feels too hard and too confronting. Honesty can be brutal. The truth can hurt.
Why do I still feel I don’t deserve to have this physical practice? Sometimes I feel like kicking myself!
But tonight after the intense focus of teaching I just needed to move. I let go of structures, sequences and categories. I forgot everything I’ve been trying to learn and I just moved the way I needed to. And it felt so good, so needed, so beautiful. I was beyond my mind and my body, just a body moving through space without a care in the world.
So careless that I forgot to cook dinner. Sorry to my hungry Hubby.
But maybe this was my truth, just this moment of careless dancing away from concerns and doubts and into just being. A little Shiva moment, not dancing the world into creation, but maybe re-creating myself a little.