May 14, 2011

How are you wearing your asana?

“…gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes…”
~Mary Oliver

In the beginning of many of my classes I offer students an opportunity to explore their dog pose (and “asana” is another word for “yoga pose”).

This is me doing a funny dog pose across a table and chair.

I might say something like, “you can bend one knee and straighten the other, then switch sides to explore opening the hamstrings independently, or you can move the hips from side to side, or if there is something else you want to do to gently make this dog pose your own, feel free to explore this pose over the next several breaths.”

Just like when you put on a new item of clothing you naturally adjust the fabric to best flatter your body or to present a look you want as well as a feel you want, we might also want to consider how we are “putting on” our yoga poses, or how we are moving into them.

Do we wear our poses to show ourselves how good we are doing in comparison to the others in class?

When I offer the time for students to explore a pose in class—inviting personal freedom to move how they might want to, my intention is to encourage people to really experience and interact with their energy and sensations consciously, and to learn how their individual bodies are showing up today.

In instructing alignment for yoga poses, I am aware that I am inviting people to wear their bodies in a specific way. I intend that I am offering these instructions to help students cultivate radical well-being within themselves. And enjoyment.

“…your motivation is not to prove that you are able to do it. The point is not to prove yourself. The point is to practice for your well-being and enjoyment.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Ever since I read this quote by Thich Nhat Hanh I have taken it on as my own. He is talking about Buddhist practice but it also fits well for me and my yoga practice at this time. These are great reasons to practice: for well-being and enjoyment. I don’t think that this means that we enjoy every moment of practice . Practice is difficult at times. But I do think when it is seen with a longer view (across time) that the trajectory is favoring enjoyment when we practice yoga.

“The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.”
~Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated by B.K.S. Iyengar

“Patanjali is saying that yoga is a preventative healing art, science and philosophy, by which we build up robust health in body and mind and construct a defensive strength with which to deflect or counteract afflictions that are as yet unperceived afflictions.

Furthermore, strong health and a stable mind will enable us to face the wonder of wonders…”
~B.K.S. Iyengar

I find myself wanting to finish the last line of the quote with something like, “increased enjoyment in life,” or, “healthy aging.” And, of course, Mr. Iyengar is talking about, “spiritual bliss.” For me the concept of “spiritual bliss” is very abstract, and what I’m focusing my attention on in my life is how to live it, here on earth. Focusing on spiritual heights, without a clear definition of what that really means, threatens to take me out of a healthy relationship with my life, lived here with friends and conditions like environmental concerns, and the way we care for one another that require my attention and life-energy.

“Spiritual bliss” as a goal can lead to a self-absorbed life, when what seems to be of high importance at this time for humanity is environmental concerns and relationship concerns.

Which leads me to consider how I might be “wearing,” or consciously positioning my body in my life that is outside of yoga practice and classes.

Yoga technique has taught me the posture of well-being. Am I caring for myself outside of the protected safety-zone of an official “yoga moment”?

There have been times in my life when I felt myself to be wearing (but of course, invisible) a “cloak of sadness”. At other times I wore a “bodice of shame”. Another time I wore a “leather weight-lifting belt of low self-esteem fear.”

Are you wearing something funny that you might be able to shift, resulting in wearing your body in a more comfortable and free—and more enjoyable—way?

The good news is that if we do discover that we are wearing something weird, that we can learn to take it off, or let it go. Yoga practice is a great way to work with this.

Learn to wear your best self both on and off the mat. (This is what I live to do.)

* with loving regards from Yogic Muse *

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