On the sofa with J Brown

j-brown-yogatalksI spent a bit of time last week tucked up on the sofa resting. While I was lying down I listened to a couple of J Brown’s recent podcasts. If you don’t know them, he regularly talks with a renowned (American?) yoga teacher from across a range of traditions reviewing their life in yoga, and he offers some personal reflections in his own intro and outro to the interview. These are seriously long podcasts. I love them for that — they feel like full conversations rather than edited highlights. But they don’t easily suit the time-poor! I was dying to listen to the one where he talks with Erich Shiffmann. Shiffmann’s Moving into Stillness was the first yoga book I ever bought and I was mesmerised by it. Still am. His descriptions of āsana-s was unlike anything I’d ever come across and it suggested to me a completely different way of being in the world, as much as it described being in a physical body or making a particular shape.

As always the conversation was fascinating, and Schiffmann talked about so many interesting things. One small aspect stuck in my mind, where he and J reflected on their current style of practice — Shiffmann’s ‘free-form yoga’ and Brown’s ‘gentle is the new advanced’. After suffering injuries, each of them had toned their practice down. Schiffmann linked this more relaxed way of practising to non-dualist philosophy. In my basic understanding if you are a non-dualist then you believe that what you’re seeking is already present, you are already perfect and whole. So there’s no need to strive for anything, you simple reveal it through gentle patience.

advaitaI think one of my teachers tried to teach me this some time ago, introducing me a little to advaita vedanta philosophy and the idea of saguna and nirguna Brahman. But I need more explicit teaching. Yoga teachers can be so elusive or so allusive — they don’t spell stuff out, but just kind of wave something near you and if you’re ready to receive the teachings then you will just get it. Somehow. I don’t know how this is supposed to work, I don’t think it does for me. I’m used to a much more direct pedagogical approach!

I don’t know what to do with this little linking of ideas in my head, but it seems that non-dualism might be relevant to my current wondering about effort/ease in āsana practice and the feelings of lost-ness I’m experiencing. I guess I’m trying to find some rationale, some guiding principle or framework for my practice. I feel as though I’ve lost some of the joy and some of the security I usually feel on the mat. Hubby — with scary acuity — observed this weekend that I’m not feeling well-supported at the moment. How does he see this when I hadn’t realised it myself? But he’s right — practice, teaching, work, home are all currently throwing up challenges and I’m needing to stand on my own two feet and get on with it without feeling so much of the usual leadership or comradeship around me.

Or is that just my perception of separateness rather than Oneness?! 🙂

I think there’s something rather profound for me here, but it’ll take quite some more hours mulling it over on the sofa —  or, better, feeling through it on the mat or cushion — before I can realise it (in any sense of the verb).


3 thoughts on “On the sofa with J Brown

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  1. I am totally down with what Schiffman and Brown said in regards to “gentle ebing the new advanced”. I too have dealt with / am dealing with injuries due to a by times overly enthusiastic asana practice. I am very much drawn to a slow, simple, attentive practice now. Deep listening does, I think, characterize an advanced style of practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello J, thanks so much for stopping by my little blog. And for the link to your conversation with Hareesh — which I have finally got to (another afternoon on the sofa!). It was fascinating listening, esp historical vs spiritual readings of Patañjali and how tantric ideas underlie a lot of our interpretations (even if we don’t recognise it as such). Thanks a lot for the pointer — and for your fine podcast in general.


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