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.
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...