I’m trying to get out of my head more in yoga asana and practise simply as a physical exercise for a while. I know this might be in reverse of the usual yoga journey trajectory, but I do like to do things my own way! It’s part of an exploration of what my body is like right now, stepping away from narratives of how it was in the past. Can I simply experience it and explore the possibilities without so many judgments or expectations?
I’m finding this hard! So to help the change of focus I’ve stepped out my usual routine a bit. I’ve played around with my day a bit so that I can practise at times when I feel physically at my best — somewhere between the stiffness of waking up and the fatigue of the evening. Also a little more time in the hot room where the vibe is much more physical and less spiritual and where the opening of the heat allows more possibilities in my body.
And on one level this more superficial practice is quite nice. It’s simple. I see why people do this and don’t feel they want to reach deeper in their practice and complicate things by asking the big questions. Maybe I’ll give up on Yoga and become a gym-bunny instead? 😉 Or perhaps not…
But this isn’t really a simple or superficial practice; it doesn’t stay on the physical level. It can’t. Because what I’m observing is how my brain labels every asana or transition with some level of warning sign ranging from ‘familiar territory but proceed with caution’ through to a full on ‘road block’ stop sign. How much of this is based on felt experience in the moment and how much on what I anticipate my body can(not) do? That’s the billion dollar question. More feeling, less thinking — this is suddenly a much harder practice!
And in the back of my mind is homework arising from my last one to one with my teacher. We talked about identifying poses where I feel a lack of energy flow, a lack of that magic spark that enlivens a posture and makes it the most wonderful shape to inhabit, where you want to linger and settle into a feeling that is at once so dynamic and yet so peaceful…. And now I’m panicking — am I anywhere near this in my yoga? I guess I am, or I wouldn’t be verbalising it, we wouldn’t have been talking about it. But it feels some almighty arrogance to be asking for help with this level of subtlety. What about the other (larger) end of the spectrum, the poses where I don’t even get started because I can’t figure out what my body can do or what the pose is about? Or the places in class where I automatically close my ears, close off the possibilities? Could I hop from Uttanasana to Adho Mukha Svanasana or indeed the other way round? I have no idea. I’ve never seen anyone do it (my eyes are always just on my own mat), so I can’t imagine what it might look or feel like… And yet it’s offered every single class. I’m suddenly feeling a very poor student! 😦
Now as I observe my body in the mirror in the hot room I find myself wondering: where does the energy come from in a pose? How much does it arise from good physical alignment and everything being just so and how much is it a state of mind, of self-belief almost? Nadis, prana, kundalini even? — what do these mean?
One of my teachers said something recently about how the first step of yoga practice is learning to look and listen. I’m still learning that. Trying to learn that, at least. And I can’t imagine ever being very proficient at it. Honest listening to a physical experience, observation without judgement, is not so simple after all. And I suppose even the pure gym bunnies don’t really have it easy, do they? We do so love to complicate things for ourselves… The mind-body connection is a tangled one.