"Gentle is the New Advanced."
Yes! Yes, it is! I just finished watching a video that a wonderful friend of mine just posted on my Face Book page. And it feels like a window of understanding just opened for me. In this short video, which I will include at the bottom of this post, this fellow yogi articulated what it is I have been trying to understand and convey through a couple great phrases and a phenomenal, connected practice. All of the sudden, I understand what it is my soul has been trying to tell me, and I feel such an ache of joy and an intense feeling of relief. Really, truly, I can't stop crying. The tears just keep flowing and falling and, honestly, it feels good. It feels like "Ah, finally!"
"Slower is Stronger."
For a while now, I have felt an immense conflict within me and where it is that my yoga practice, path, and teaching seem to be taking me because it is so different and far apart from what I am currently surrounded by. At the studio where I work, which is a most amazing place, there is a big change occurring. It's a change that has been happening over the last two years since the big Anusara break up, a community and way that we were all once a part of. It feels extreme to me, the change from one way of teaching and practice to another. In fact, they feel worlds apart to me. And that distance and those differences have been so hard to reconcile especially given the fact that I have such a love for Yoga Oasis and Darren and Rachel and the whole lot. I don't know why this weighs so heavy on my heart, or maybe I should say that I don't know why this has weighed so heavy on my heart.
Now, it is clear. I now understand that practicing at warp speed and with intensity is just not for me. It hurts my body and assaults my nervous system. I know this to be true because it takes me days to recover after such a practice. My body and soul have been trying to convey this particular message to me for quite some time. Only, my mind kept asking questions and coming up with reasons why this way of practicing and teaching was not working such as: I'm out of shape; I'm sleep deprived; I don't understand this way fully; I'm just not used to it yet. And on and on, along that train of thought.
I am now very clear that I am not an intense practitioner, I am a peaceful one. To me, practicing in an intense and fast way feels jarring on my whole system. I have to pay attention to that. We all have to pay attention to how our practice leaves us feeling otherwise we are just running through the motions, checking the exercise-is-done box off the list, and on and off to the next thing we go.
We go and we do, and we go hard. This is the common way here in the West with everything, so doing anything gently or slowly is a foreign concept. I don't know if most people know how to be gentle with themselves at all, let alone practice yoga in such a way. I suppose that is why I do what I do. I am here to show people another way is possible and highly beneficial.
Before I go on, let me just share with you the definition for gentle. Gentle is defined as: kind or tender; not harsh or severe.
It seems to me that more often than not, "slow" or "gentle" is often equated to weakness, too easy, or for the beginner. And it seems nobody wants to be a beginner anymore in anything. Why is that? When you are a beginner, there is so much opportunity to learn, and it's such a spacious place to be in. We all want to hurry up and be Great, but greatness doesn't happen all at once. Greatness is a process of steps and learning and growing into the things one desires to be great at. I'm getting a little off track, but you get the gist.
Practicing yoga postures with awareness, patience, and precision isn't easy because it requires mental stamina, it requires that we stay with the process rather than move past or ahead of it. The mind can easily get tired and check out and wander on and it often does. I am sure a similar thing could be said of a fast paced, flowing class, hot or not, in that you have no time to think about anything other than what you are doing, so your brain gets a break. And there is some good and some truth in that, but at what cost? The mind gets a break but the body doesn't? I don't know. Isn't yoga about aligning body, mind, heart and spirit? Isn't it about bringing it all together?
The asana practice is not just about taking the shape of the pose, it's about feeling the pose fully and learning the art of subtlety. I see the asana practice as a peeling away the layers, a diving deeper into the body, into the nervous system, and into the heart of who you are. I don't even know if people are aware that there is so much more to a yoga practice than getting a pose or keeping up. It's about getting yourself.
I think that so much of Yoga here in the West is thought of as a purely physical endeavor and a physically demanding one at that. And if you are able to do pose x, y or z, you must be good. It's almost as if being able to do a really deep, difficult and/or flashy pose or poses means you must be an advanced student, teacher, or whatever. I personally feel that it's more important to be able to maintain connection, a relaxed awareness and sense or feeling of even flow in breath, energy and movement as you practice. I think all things open up from there.
So let me be clear, this is not a this-way-is-better-than-that-way sort of sharing. It's just me sharing and getting clear on things in the most honest way I know how.
It's been an interesting couple of years since the move away from Anusara to say the least. It's been full of ups and downs, moments of utter confusion and blasts of clarity and insight. So here I am looking over things and taking it all in.
It's certainly the right time for me to be looking over things so that I can figure my way forward. And figuring my way forward really just means to keep doing what I'm doing. I will add to that, that this also means I can let go of trying to understand the way in which things have and probably will continue to change. There is a place for me where I am, and I know that. I am very fortunate that way. All I have to remember is that the people who need what I have to offer will show up. I can rely on that.
So here's the video I spoke of at beginning:
Check it out! Feel free to share your thoughts and insights with me also. I'd love it.
All the best,