Finding ourselves in transition
I have found myself thinking about transitions, the space between endings and beginnings, up and down, backward and foreward. Our language has the power to shape us and in current usage ‘between’ is usually thought of as that which separates and is applicable to both space and time; the road is between this town and that town, I will arrive between 9am and 10 am - but what if instead we began to consider the between as something that could connect us, something that reveals more of what we share?
We are always in transition in one way or another, sometimes the transitions are small, we move between inhale and exhale and barely give it a second thought and sometimes the transitions are bigger. I have recently transitioned from the UK to New York State, a transition that took me from a place I lived to a life I can call home.
That was the physical move, but the real transition occurred after arriving here. It would be seven months before the things I had deemed important enough to keep arrived as they were to be shipped and seven months before the Green Card which allowed me to work arrived - so now who am I without all the layers I have previously, falsely, identified as myself? There were a wealth of possibilities in front of me, the temptation was to run headlong into all those possibilities. As a lifelong learner there was so much I could fill my time with, endless opportunities to run round in circles, sticking to myself new markers, in the shape of skills and certification, symbols of how I felt I ought to present myself to the world, to be good enough, to fit in, much as a decorator crab sticks shiny things to its shell to protect itself from predators. In short countless ways to avoid simply sitting with the between, with myself.
I am lucky, the person I consider home is very good at reminding me I am enough just as I am - sometimes I just need to pause long enough to really hear it, to let it in all the way. I did, eventually, I dared to pause and I sat in the in between, in the nothingness, or so I thought, because in that stillness so much began to emerge. Not in the form of new skills, or things - it began as a sensation, a dropping in. When all the striving and searching fell away what was left was a hum, it was the sensation of peace and ease and it felt familiar, like stepping into water that is exactly the same temperature as your body - you feel nothing and everything all at once - that is how you know you belong.
From there I have chosen carefully what I invite back into my life, all the while listening for the familiar hum, the intuition that tells me I am being true to myself rather than living up to what I mistakenly believe the world expects from me.
I would invite you to approach your practice in the same way - first drop in to yourself, listen for your own hum, listen to it on days when you are relaxed and truly in yourself, in your elements, listen on days you are frazzled and scattered in a million other directions. Notice the pitch, tone, sensation, this is your baseline, you are not looking for perfection, you are looking for what is. Then begin to move - start close to the ground, let yourself be supported, move rhythmically, notice the breath, the fluid systems of the body. Keep dropping your centre of gravity out of the mind and into the body until the hum feels more unified, more like a long forgotten song that you once loved. Then take that sensation with you as you add more challenges, more changes in gravity. Move, for example, from Supta Tadasana to Tadasana can you come back to the sensation here, can you bring with you the sensation of support that the floor gave you? If you find it in Tadasana can you build Trikonasana in a way that supports it rather than forcing your way past it? Can you add to what’s outside without subtracting from what’s inside?
That is the challenge life presents to us all, can we be both inward and outward simultaneously. Can we dare to look inward to our most vulnerable self and in that vulnerability recognize our shared humanity. Can we resist the temptation to throw on our armor or use force when faced with challenges or changes in gravity. Perhaps if we can pause long enough we can find ourselves, find each other and regain the sensation of connection in a world that would mistakenly have us believe there is only separation in the between.
Our practice shines a light on imbalance, inequality in the way we move through life both on and off the mat. Often this imbalance is unconscious - you only have to cross your legs counter to your usual way to feel how you may have acted repeatedly yet unknowingly to reinforce the imbalance of your system as a whole. Yoga forces us to face these truths so we can begin the work of dismantling the habits and restoring balance.
Sometimes the imbalance has deliberately been put there, by shifting our relationship to gravity or working asymmetrically. In this instance we still have to be aware enough to feel, to realise that part of us needs more support, more strength given back to it as it is having to work harder to maintain homeostasis. We must realise where strength or support has been undermined and give back more strongly to that place, we must not continue to steal from it in order to feed extension in the places that have an inherently easier reach.
Only then will there be real equality, only then will we find grace in movement as we allow ourselves to function as a whole, each part in support of the other.
Tadasana: Take a belt behind you, hold one end in each hand at either side of your hips
Sit cross legged:
Adho Mukha Svanasana: (downward facing dog)
Sit cross legged:
What other poses could you play with over the next week or so to continue the same enquiry, how can you find balance in a-symmetry? Keep coming back to the practice with the belts and trying to replicate the sensation in other poses.
You declare you see me dimly
through a glass which will not shine,
though I stand before you boldly,
trim in rank and marking time.
You do own to hear me faintly
as a whisper out of range,
while my drums beat out the message
and the rhythms never change.
Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.
You announce my ways are wanton,
that I fly from man to man,
but if I'm just a shadow to you,
could you ever understand ?
We have lived a painful history,
we know the shameful past,
but I keep on marching forward,
and you keep on coming last.
Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.
Take the blinders from your vision,
take the padding from your ears,
and confess you've heard me crying,
and admit you've seen my tears.
Hear the tempo so compelling,
hear the blood throb in my veins.
Yes, my drums are beating nightly,
and the rhythms never change.
Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.
by Maya Angelou
Moving beyond duality...
With so much happening in the world it can feel hard to practice, hard to settling during our time on the mat - but trust that this is when we need our practice the most, that we can let these feelings inform us, let them be our reason rather than our excuse.
Practice is a time to simply show up, not as an expert but someone who is willing to listen. To sit with our bodies and say I am sorry it took me so long, but I am here now.
Yoga is about moving beyond duality, but as Nikki Myers, the founder of Y12SR says “In order to move beyond duality first we have to acknowledge it exists.” I want you to let Nikki’s words be your guide in this week’s practice.
This week play with these poses:
Urdvha Hastasana (raising the arms upward)
Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)
In Adho Mukha Svanasana explore the rotation of the arms that we always go through in class:
Feel how you are realising a duality within the movement of the arm, acknowledging it - then feel how the realisation of that duality actually brings you in towards the midline - or in other words allows you to move beyond the duality. Muscle moves towards the bone, and your arm, by acknowledging its parts, becomes whole.
Now can you maintain that and lift into Adho Mukha Svanasana? Can you find and maintain the unity in your strength?
Then go back to Urdvha Hastasana - find it again, play.
Adho Mukha Svanasana again - how does the dual rotation in the arms mirror what has to happen in the legs? Can you recognise it?
How is it both the same and different.
Now find it again in Urdvha Hastasana - arms and legs.
How does that affect the pose?
Not just unity in strength, but also strength in unity.
Human Family - Maya Angelou
I note the obvious differences
In the human family.
Some of us are serious,
Some thrive on comedy.
Some declare their lives are lived
As true profundity,
And others claim they really live
The real reality.
The variety of our skin tones
Can confuse, bemuse, delight,
Brown and pink and beige and purple,
Tan and blue and white.
I've sailed upon the seven seas
And stopped in every land,
I've seen the wonders of the world
Not yet one common man.
I know ten thousand women
Called Jane and Mary Jane,
But I've not seen any two
Who really were the same.
Mirror twins are different
Although their features jibe,
And lovers think quite different thoughts
While lying side by side.
We love and lose in China,
We weep on England's moors,
And laugh and moan in Guinea,
And thrive on Spanish shores.
We seek success in Finland,
Are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
In major we're the same.
I note the obvious differences
Between each sort and type,
But we are more alike, my friends,
Than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
Than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
Than we are unalike.
pose and repose...
“Yoga is shared, not taught” another immortal line from my teacher Matthew Sanford. It is true, there is something alive that happens in the room when we practice together, something in the dynamic, something that is very much missing in these strange times of separation....Something I miss.
For this week’s “class” I have selected the Iyengar style Menstrual Sequence (download the file below). In Indian tradition, much more so than here, menstruation is seen as a time of rest, a time to cease strenuous activity and look inwards. Whether or not actual physical menstruation is something that applies to you the concept of allowing some time each month to slow, to take stock is a wise one. So this sequence is for everyone.
We are in so much change at the moment in terms of workload, whether you are out there carrying out frontline duties with the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that can bring; or your work has stopped completely for the foreseeable and the different pressures that brings. We are homeschooling, looking after our vulnerable, we may be carrying our anxiety, physical and mental health challenges and that of those we care about - life has changed - whilst it may look busier on the outside or it may look quieter on the outside - whichever is true for you we can all still benefit from consciously taking one week teach month to be slower, quieter, more introspective - a retreat. If you do not physically menstruate any more, or never have I would recommend timing that week instead with the onset of the full moon.
So in order to slow we need to give ourselves time - to allow enough time for a gentle falling away of the speed and momentum we have been conditioned to live with. Imagine a snow globe, it has been shaken and the snow is whirling, we need to set it down, let it rest and allow the time necessary for everything to settle. That is how I want you to approach these poses. There may be some that are out of reach, maybe through lack of props, maybe because you feel unsure about them right now that is fine do only what you are comfortable with and never compromise conditions of safety. Look at each pose and see if you can feel out why it is included in this sequence, what does it bring that can help with the sensations of quiet and ease? If props are shown remember to look at what the prop is giving, then build your support accordingly to support your pose in that way. Do not force your pose to reach the prop set up shown, give yourself permission to build yours up higher, wider, differently if it is needed - to meet you where you are today.
Then stay, give yourself time to be in the pose - don’t be eagerly thinking about what is next, settle, see what arises, what can you feel. Let there be a time when you stop trying to ‘achieve’ the pose and instead let the pose change you.
Then I want us to start building the dynamic of class again, our container is bigger, we are not in physical space but we can transcend the studio walls. Bring me your questions as they arise, whether from this practice or any other that we have done. Either leave them below or if you want to remain anonymous email them to me and I will do my best to answer them as we move forward.
N.B Where Matsyasana is shown, please feel free to do the pose with simple cross legs instead if you need.
keeping it simple....
Some days it feels like all you want to do is keep it simple, this is one of those days - so rather than a new sequence we will be sharing one of the simplest breathing techniques, perfect for those with a busy mind for whom meditation can be difficult at first.
Find a comfortable seated position, ensuring your hips are higher than your knees. (this helps the spine stay alert). Let the spine be long and spacious, take whatever support you need to help that happen.
Take a few breaths to settle in then inhale normally and as you exhale make the buzzing sound of a bee, (a gentle humming in the throat).
Keep your eyes and jaw soft, do not overdo - if you feel you are doing too much pause and go back to normal breathing.
Continue as long as you like and when you stop sit with the sensation that remains in body and mind.
How do we withstand?...
I have always been fascinated by the solitary tree - what is its story, how has it been able to withstand what others seemingly have not, what is its secret?
This week I have been lead to the very same question within my practice? How do we maintain the ease at our centre amidst chaos and struggle without becoming rigid, how do we balance firmness and ease?
My teacher Matthew Sanford always says “Strength without a sense of direction is violence, strength with a sense of direction is grace.” I think this is part of the the key, but how do we explore it in practice.
I want you to start with the sensation you were working on last week, to come back to laying over the rolled blanket, find the softness and ease in the abdomen, the opening in the chest. You have to know the sensation of ease first so you know what you are trying to come back to. Experiment, what is the difference if you belt the legs or not, if you weight the legs or not?
Then play with Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog Pose:-
Notice how using the legs well helps support the ease in the organic body. I have attached a sequence of standing poses - if you want to take this inquiry further see how that remains true in the poses in this sequence, work out the sense of direction first to help you find grace and ease in the pose.
By first finding our sense of direction, looking within, using discernment and recognising what truly moves us then allowing it to guide our action we are able to move sustainably with grace. We are putting our strength (however much or little we have) in service of something rather than wasting it by forcibly trying to push on in a direction that may not be helpful to us.
We are using props, taking support where we need to in order to quieten the noise of effort and look within, to maintain our centre of gravity and reveal our sense of direction. Look again at this second image of the tree from a different angle, notice it is not quite as solitary as it at first seems. Part of how it stands with grace is the deeper connection to something greater than its self sensed deep within its roots. There is community.
We are all becoming acutely aware of the difference in connecting for work or pleasure through the medium of technology as opposed to face to face interaction….we are all beginning to struggle with what Krista Tippet in her podcast “on Being” terms “zoomzaustion” and becoming as my beloved calls it “zoom zombies” but this time will pass and what will we have learned from it about connecting through the empty space?
This week I want us to simplify our practice so we can go deeper. To allow ourselves the time to simply be and see if we can stay fully present, this is where we move from doing the pose to being in the pose and allowing the pose to do something for us, a balance I feel I will be working on for the rest of my life.
We have forgotten to how to be guests inside our own homes, our bodies - we either run roughshod over all the compassionate rules of a harmonious house, trying to dominate it - smashing and breaking as we go or we become withdrawn and distant refusing to engage with our host. Whilst we are forced to socially distance from each other we can instead remember how to come home to ourselves. Like a wayward teenager trying to come home and make amends it won’t always be easy, there will be bumps in the road but with time and practice we will find a way back to balance - trust in time.
This is one of my favourite practices as taught to me by one of my favourite teachers Matthew Sanford. Somedays I get there, some days I don’t in itself that shows me how I am showing up each day and what I am bringing with me to the practice. Remember that wayward teenager is going to come home with a whole bag full of laundry!
Laying over a rolled blanket (see image below):
Now allow yourself to be there, feel into the centre of your chest, the seat of consciousness, can you come home to rest in that spot. Let the breath be gentle, natural (I still struggle with this one, once we start to observe the breath there is a tendency to overdo - trust that your breathing is just fine, it is enough)
Maybe this is it, maybe you stay here with this for a while give yourself time to land for a few minutes, hours, days.
When you have come in, taken your shoes off and made yourself at home it is time to explore the other rooms in the house, but you don’t want to lose that sense of ease. So gently from the back of the body, without disrupting the open vulnerability at the heart centre start to extend out through the back of the legs into the heels and beyond then out through the back of the arms and beyond…..none of this extension and expansion is to come at the expense of the ease and openness in the front body - you want to both stay fully present in the heart of the home and also see what lays beyond.
Then release and see how much you were able to both stay at the centre and reach outward simultaneously.
Repeat this as often as you need/can.
Now take that sensation into your practice, try some of your favourite poses done in the same way, can you be in Trikonasana and expand from the heart centre? If it gets lost too quickly in standing try taking your trikonasana down to the floor and find it laying on your back, or if you have wall space do it against the wall - notice how supporting the spine allows the mind to quieten and you to come back home. Once you have found the sensation on the floor or the wall keep practicing carrying it forward into all your poses.
Then practice carrying it forward into your interactions through technology, can you find grounding and stay present in the centre of your chest whilst your mind is being pulled by the glare of technology?
Practice and I know that you can.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
Following the path…
Sometimes you just don’t know where the path will lead, for example what if you could go into your kitchen and find the moon? Maybe you can but more on that later.
For the path to unfold in this way what is required is allowing, not to be confused with a passive state of inaction, this kind of allowing requires us to be fully awake, to listen to our deepest knowing and follow it up with right action. In 2010 I signed up for a workshop - I had no idea to where it would lead. The workshop was entitled “The Art of Adjusting” and was lead by Matthew Sanford. Fast forward ten years and it turns out I will have made countless trips to Minnesota to keep studying with Matthew and his team at Mind Body Solutions. His pioneering work and devotion to humanity has become more interwoven in every breath I take than I could ever imagine.
The deepest knowing does not come from text books, there is no app (despite what some may try to have us believe) and we cannot Google for answers, this kind of knowing takes stillness and the courage to feel. I say that with full knowing that this is not the easiest path to follow, I began my Yoga practice as an analytical, classically trained student of philosophy exploring existential philosophy from the safety of my A4 notepad - what I didn’t realise in 2010 was that I was about to be thrown into living it.
You will have heard me reference Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in class, they are a collection of 196 aphorisms exploring the path to enlightenment through Yoga, they are essentially the roadmap to something essentially indescribable. They are fascinating to explore and the depth of meaning that can be packed into a few words never ceases to amaze me. Each time you look more is revealed, but that is the magic, because it is not about words on a page - it is about the ability of the reader to see, to get still and quiet enough to listen which is exactly what we are being asked to do in our practice and in life. The power of the sutras is in the dynamic between you and the words; as the power of the pose is in your relationship to it; as the parts of the pose only come alive in relationship to each other and so on - can you feel the depth of the rabbit holes we are being invited to fall down?
One of the first and most profound things I learned with Matthew is that in order to truly be with people, to be in dynamic, you need to take a good look at yourself first so as to avoid the pitfall of projecting your own suffering on to others. We all have suffering, admittedly it comes in all shapes and sizes, all colours and textures, but there is no one of us who has not felt the sting of losing someone or something precious, who has not felt the knock to our sense of self from something we never saw coming. And so begins the lived work of the Yoga sutra:
1. अथ मोगानशु ासनभ ॥१॥
The Sutras are written in Sanskrit which is a devotional language, ‘Atha’ means now, when we explore the sutras we learn that the first word of each holds the most weight so consider for a moment the weight of the first word of the first Sutra - Now - in essence it is all there, in that utterance - Now - this moment. However because this is Sanskrit there are more layers, more depth to the moment - ‘Atha’ also signifies that we are asking for a blessing, opening the doors to be supported on this journey. The full aphorism means - Now, with prayers for divine blessing, begins our exploration of Yoga.
So we have begun.
So we must proceed.
2. मोगणित्तवणृ त्तणनयोध् ॥ २॥
yogah chittavritti nirodhah
Yoga is the stilling of fluctuations in consciousness
Or getting out of our own way for long enough that we can drop into the deep knowing, there is already enough work here for several lifetimes.
Glennon Doyle in her book “Untamed” says:
“How to Know:
Moment of uncertainty arises.
Breathe, turn inward, sink.
Feel around for the Knowing.
Do the thing it nudges you toward.
Let it stand. (Don’t explain.)
(For the rest of your life; continue to shorten the gap between the Knowing and the doing.)”
She too is living it, as we all are - you do not need to be locked away in an ivory tower of academia or living the life of a hermit in the mountains - as I mentioned before maybe you can simply go into your own kitchen and find the moon, which brings me to this weeks practice - Kitchen Asana.
It is easy to avoid practice because we don’t feel we know enough of we don’t feel we have the right props, if we are to believe the images in the media Yoga can only be practiced in beautifully maintained, pristine, minimalist spaces - not true! - Yoga is for living ‘Now’ in whatever state we find ourselves in this moment. Kitchen Asana (practicing using the kitchen counter, the kitchen chair, the kitchen table etc) is a study in working with what you have got and letting it support you, in surrendering to the truth that in this moment you are enough and have everything you need to step forward on the path.
I leave you today with last words from Annie Hickman, long time student of Mind Body Solutions. read more at the student blog:
In Nature's time....
One of the curious side effects existing bi-continentally is witnessing the unfolding of nature simultaneously in two climates. The gift of noticing how it is not bound, as we so often are, by calendar time. How Spring here emerges at a different time to Spring there and realising the principles with which nature organises itself are fully removed from those with which we might like to try and organise it; nature’s seasons are moved by something deeper than our external imposition of squares on the calendar.
Our Yoga practice also asks us to examine the principles according to which we organise ourselves. Classical practice of Yoga is not limited to the Asana (posture) practice we are so familiar with, it is in fact an eight-fold path (Ashtanga). The Sutras lay out this path as a road map, the steps are the same for all but the timing or journey for us each will differ and unfold according to our commitment to: Tapas (practice), Svadhyaha (self-study) and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender) - we each move along the path according to something deeper than our own illusion of control.
The Eight limbs of classical Yoga are:
Yama - Universal Vows
Niyama - Ethical Observances
Asana - Posture (to abide)
Pranayama - Expansion of vital energy through regulation of breath
Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses
Dharana - Concentration
Dhyana - Meditation
Samadhi - Bliss
The Yamas and Niyamas are further broken down into five principles a piece, I will share a very simplified description of each below although each could warrant a dissertation in itself:
Ahimsa - Non-Violence
Satya - Truthfulness
Asteya - Non-covetousness
Brahmacharya - Cultivation of moderation
Aparigraha - Non-greed
Saucha - Purity, cleanliness
Santosha - Contentment
Tapas - Focused practice
Svadhyaya - Self Study
Isvara Pranidhana - Surrender
Notice that there is a constant sense of deepening within the map laid out by the eight-fold path and also that it is not entirely linear in the way we might like to control and classify things. We do not have to fully master and ‘sign off’ Ahimsa before we progress to Satya, nor do we have to live trapped in a pursuit of ‘perfection’ or ‘become certified’ in the Yamas before we progress to the Niyamas, Asana and so on. We only need a willingness to try, to be aware. Although our practice will naturally evolve according to our practice of the limb that precedes, each limb also exists within the other, they intersect and develop within and alongside each other for as long as we continue to practice. Some of the later limbs cannot even be manifested wilfully, they will emerge only as the time is right as the principles that went before have become ripe within the practitioner - just as we cannot will the tree to blossom or fruit according to our schedule but only allow it to do so when the conditions it requires are all present - not in our time, in nature’s time. (Isvara Pranidhana)
So how do we cultivate the ripening within our Asana practice. You will notice the sequences I am giving you these days do not necessarily contain as many poses as we might do in a class, that is because I want you to go deeper, to feel more as opposed to doing more, and for that to happen we require the spaciousness of time, a surrender to nature’s time.
Prashant Iyengar speaks of organisation he says “To be organised is to have everything in its place at one and the same time. To be organised means that all is required is available when you need it. You have all your parts. When you are in the Asana you should be like an organised house. Everything should be in its place at one and the same time.
Do not do at the cost of some other part.
What is the point of something being in its place when it is not wanted and not being there when it is wanted? The ankle is there, but not in its place when it is wanted. When the teacher shouts “ankle” you put it in place and then the shoulder is not there in its place”
Try to practice this week with that in mind, can you work within your awareness to organise your asana. This takes us away from the habit of always trying to do more or learn more, instead Prashant says “Learn to co-relate, get organised”
Notice how observance of all of the Yamas and Niyamas are interwoven with practicing this way.
Galway Kinnell - 1927-2014
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
waterfalls and exploration.....
Waterfalls have a special significance for me, they have brought both love and flow into my life. When we allow space for the sensation of flow we acknowledge our obstacles yet allow ourselves to stay open, curious; to listen to what part of our story they are intersecting with and find new or different ways of moving with and around them. Flow requires both the courage to listen deeply and a willingness to change direction in order to stay on our truest course.
As an only child in the pre-digital 1970’s I spent a lot of time entertaining myself - I was an explorer - one of my favourite things to do was to take a mirror and hold it at waist level facing up to the ceiling then try to walk around the house - my feet (body) were on the ground, but my eyes (perception) were seeing only the reflection of the ceiling - I loved the strange sensation of getting to a light fitting and feeling the involuntary twitch of my leg to step over something that I knew deep down wasn’t really beneath my feet. Sometimes when we come up against an obstacle a little shift in perspective can be all it takes to help us find the true ground beneath our feet.
Last week we practiced listening to our stories, the beliefs we hold that affect how we show up in our practice and whilst it is important that we are always gentle with our stories, they have given us something we needed to get us this far, perhaps you also noticed how some of those stories can create obstacles in our practice. This week I want to explore re-framing or exploring a pose from different angles and seeing what we find. Use some of the poses from the first “sequence for uncertain times” in week one to arrive on the mat, then explore approaching Parsvottonasana from Utthita Hasta Padasana, from Adho Mukha Svanasana and from Prasarita Padottonasana to see what the differing approach brings. If doing it all in one day is too much take one approach each day - but be aware of any other variables you might be bringing in if you do it this way - time of day, temperature, digestion etc.
Throughout your practice notice the changing qualities of your key pose in body, mind and breath. How does the it change each time? What do you gain, what do you lose when you take a different route to your destination? Does the different journey change your outlook when you are there? Remember it is not about picking your favourite method, that would be falling into the trap of rigidity, it would be narrowing your horizon again - instead notice the subtler qualities, be curious about how the journey affects the destination and try to let go of fixed ideas about what your practice should be for today - if you begin this way but something calls to you, follow it - maybe you will realise another that pose might help you access something deeper or shift a blockage in this one, try it, play be curious.
Then again at the end of the practice, in Savasana, notice the qualities of the body, the mind and the breath……then notice that there is something else, something more that can witness body, mind and breath….can you notice its qualities too?
And of course we need a poem for the week
Lost by David Wagoner:
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
In this time of uncertainty I have no wish to add to the noise in this world. I leave these writings for those I have shared Yoga with, so our community may continue and flourish - as ever take what you need and leave the rest...