PRACTICE AND ALL IS COMING
Yoga to me is like breathing… it’s automatic. I practice because I’m supposed to.
But now, after almost four years of practice I feel like a beginner again. Why? Well, I’ve embarked on a new method of yoga and yep, it’s like the first day of school. It is so refreshing. Today I might perfect a pose, tomorrow that same pose might not happen. The day after is a new day. The journey never ends. Forever a student.
My new practice has me looking back to my first yoga class. That (literally) life-changing moment when the teacher attempted to put me into a modified version of Kapotasana (King Pigeon pose). My cement like shoulders refused to comply. It was here, being held in the pose, that I felt hot, uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. Margaret (one of the most influential teachers I’ve had) just kept saying, ‘I know, I know why you are crying, I know’.
What she and I both knew was that, although I was experiencing more pain than I ever had, something deep inside me had been let out. Some sadness that was buried under the layers had been forced to the surface and found its way to the light. In that moment a thought entered my mind. “I need this”. My body and mind were calling out for a release. Over time I used my practice to dislodge a lot of stagnant energy and stuck emotions… the mat my shrink’s couch and the practice my therapist.
Despite my love for the Iyengar method, which taught me correct alignment, anatomical understanding, patience and respect for the body recently I began seeking a new challenge. Without knowing it, I’d been searching for a practice that compliments the way I’m thinking, feeling and trying to live my life. A more meditative, spiritual experience. To do that I needed to connect internally. Mostly though I needed a teacher and practice willing to facilitate this.
And then, just like that, I flipped my practice on its head and went from 5-6 classes a week in Iyengar/Hatha to 5 early morning starts in Ashtanga Vinyasa, (still doing 2 Iyengar classes!) Let’s just say it wasn’t just my practice that flipped.
I’m eternally grateful for my previous practice and yoga studies, because without them I feel that the Mysore style of Ashtanga Vinyasa would’ve been the most intimidating experience to enter into.
Let me describe it. Mysore method of Ashtanga is traditionally practiced in the morning and is very much about your personal practice – working through set sequences. When you enter the shala some people may have already begun and other students may be practising an entirely different sequence to you. You lay your mat down, you practice. With guidance from the teacher you flow through the sequence, focusing on your ujjayi breath and gently cultivating heat within the body. When ready you are given the next pose or you move through to the finishing sequence of backbends, inversions, meditation and savasana.
You can easily see how going from the strong, detailed and heavily guided practice of Iyengar to the dynamic, flowing, meditative practice of Mysore Ashtanga has given me a little whiplash! As I write this I am still working through so many things when it comes to this new practice. Resistance, fear, joy, inspiration, insecurity.
But I’m trying. I’m committing to the practice.
Ashtanga has been holding a mirror up to me. Reflecting back emotions and insecurities I now need to face. It’s certainly demonstrating that it (yoga, life) is a long journey. One that is sometimes painful but that within every roadblock resides the answer.
Yes the asana is important to me. I love the changes my body has gone through, I love that my practice inspires me to eat better, and I cherish the strength and vitality I feel during and after practice. Despite this it’s the gateway that the physical practice reveals that I value the most. It is a way to open myself up and face my ego, accepting where I am at, finding patience and pausing… breathing through the moment.
All these lessons I take off the mat into my life. Not whether I can do 12 backbends in a row…although, that would be fun!
Do you practice? What kind of yoga do you practice?
What do you love the most about your practice?
Signing off with an exhale.