Playing favourites

I ran a workshop for my students recently to help them begin to establish their own home yoga practice. When helping them think about categorising the poses they knew so that they could define a simple sequence, I asked them to consider what their favourite pose was. Perhaps they could use that as the lynch-pin for their sequence? If you want to learn to cook, you think about what food you like to eat; if you want to practise yoga independently it too has to be attractive to you.

One of the students commented afterwards that they’d never thought of this question before. I admitted I hadn’t until I did teacher training. I well remember being asked to name my favourite and least favourite pose. Least favourite was easy: Tadāsana! But favourite? I didn’t have one! I didn’t really enjoy any of the poses. They were all just foreign shapes that felt more or less uncomfortable, foolish, dangerous, whatever…

Now just recently I feel a distinct change in my experience of asana practice overall. It begins to feel familiar and welcome. I realise I do have shapes that I am drawn to, there are poses and transitions that arise readily through my practice where I find joy in the physical movements, exploring where my body is in space, how to find balance, exploring some stretch to deepen the posture. There are even a bunch of more challenging poses that I’m working towards, and I’m enjoying figuring out the actions required and how to prepare my mind and body for such tricky explorations. I’m currently most drawn to standing poses and hand balances. Stuff that makes me feel strong. Transitions between poses surprise me with where I end up, or leave me giggling on the floor when it goes wrong and I fall over!

1ceecbab-b622-4a3f-9735-c403871df758My body no longer feels so tight and stuck. It’s as though I’m some dehydrated substance to which you add water and stir — and bingo, some magical alchemy reveals something palatable from unpromising ingredients. My body feels as though it’s made from a different material now. I’m reminded of learning the word ‘thixotropic’ in school chemistry lessons — the property where a substance is naturally thick and viscous but when you shake it it becomes looser and more fluid.

Is this what Rolfing does? Or is this just a stage the body arrives at when you’ve been doing yoga a while? Have I changed something about the way I practise that means I’m exploring range of motion more actively? Whatever it is, I’m quite liking this feeling and how my body is working, so I hope it remains a while. Now I begin to see why āsana practice is so attractive, seductive even. Just as well I’m booked onto a little meditation course this month — it’ll give me something else to concentrate on and work at and balance out my yoga focus! And hopefully I’ll be able to sit comfortably for a couple of hours after all that stretching out 🙂

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