Stillness is my jam

‘The one you are looking for is the one who is looking’.

St Francis of Assisi

I’ve been doing a lot of Power Vinyasa. It’s not my go-to but it seems to be the main domain around Melbourne so I’m embracing it. Get me strong. Make me sweat. Work me hard. Rrrrrr. A big part of me loves it but it’s really not my jam. It’s not where I’m at in my home practice. I can’t go deep enough into my tissue and travel my awareness down carefully when we move so quickly. I can’t pause and feel into my experience for long enough. My breath gets ragged as we shift from one pose to another. The sweat is pouring off me and my travel mat is getting all kinds of manky. I’m being pushed. Hard. And I’m not sure that’s what I need.

I want to sit in the seat of the asana and become intimate with the shape. I want to engage down to my bones and be still inside myself. I want to feel into the silence that sits beneath the sounds. That frequency and baseline of presence that calls to me and asks me to hover for just a moment. To hang out there. Take the time to sense into the space and dance inside the continuum.

But that’s a trip that’s only got deeper as I’ve gone deeper. So what would happen if I committed to Power Vinyasa. It’s all an experiment, right? So I’ve gone all in. I’ve found a studio that has incredibly knowledgeable and experienced teachers who weave together a mix of traditional teachings with Anusara, Jivamukti and Power Yoga. Grrrr. Thank you Moksha and your faculty of deep-seated mavens. My head gets food, my heart gets wide and my body is gratefully served by the whole arrangement. The more I practice and trust and dive into this style that I don’t think I ‘want’, the more focused I become, the stronger I get and the stiller I can be inside the poses.

Now, that’s not news but we can get so caught up in our preferences and identifications that other ideas can be cast aside without giving them a proper chance. I’m pretty guilty of this in my life so it’s a daily practice for me to remember that I don’t know everything. Pete holds that mirror up more times than I care for and I’ve learnt that I’m afraid to not know the answers. I’m afraid to ask questions and I’m often jumping in when I could be listening. But this is why I love stillness. So I can see reality more clearly and catch myself in the thicket of my conditioning.

Whether it’s through meditation, two hours of sweating and flowing, two hours of deep, slow and juicy tissue travel or watching myself interacting with the world. I’m getting still. And through that practice I come to connect with my fundamental nature. Yoga means to yoke or connect but it also means a ‘method’ of accomplishing something and it also means ‘endeavor, diligence, care and attention’. So, as Hareesh explains in The Sutra Project, yoga is “a method of becoming firmly connected to one’s true nature. A method that must be pursued with diligence and careful attention.”

This coming back to stillness is a coming back to my Self. To my true nature so I can experience reality more directly. Whether I like it or not. It is, Hareesh’s translation, “to see reality directly. Not through the mind filter of your conditioned thought”. And what a relief that is. What a liberation. To be gently untangled from conditioned thought and to observe. To see myself and others more clearly by resting back into my true nature and witnessing reality as it comes. Not how I think it is or want it to be. Trusting in the power of the practices to reveal that reality and draw me back into stillness. Again and again and again. In each moment, a new invitation. To step back into the state of yoga.

Photo credit to Sonia Guzzo.

 

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‘Do more yoga’ part deux. How to improve your asana practice.

If you’ve got a solid home practice and feel a little stuck then here’s a bunch of ways to up your asana game. Because, let’s be honest, making shapes is fun. Seeing our bodies grow and evolve through the practice can be rewarding and draws us deeper into a relationship with what’s going on inside our tissue. It gets us more interested in how much potential our bodies have and also asks us to question why we want to improve in asana, specifically.

For me, developing my asana practice has gone from the handstand grail to going super deep into my bodily experience and moving so slowly that I am holding present to as much of the movement as possible. A tuning in as much as a tuning up. And the desire to ‘up my asana game’ comes from a return to classes, a long journey into my own asana laboratory and the sweet remembrance of humility. That I will always have so much to learn.

  1. Get stronger

If you want to move into more advanced postures, you will need to develop a strong core, glutes, quads and upper body strength. It seems obvious but we can trundle along for years in our own practice without necessarily getting stronger.

  1. Practice 4-6 times a week

Whether that’s going to class or practicing at home. Make it regular, consistent and listen carefully to what you avoid and what you fall into. Mix it up and commit to your desire to grow. If you can get on your mat every day then do it but 4-6 times a week is entirely reasonable.

  1. Watch videos

Get inspired. Watch yogis who inspire you and witness their commitment to the practice. Some of my favourites to watch are Dylan Werner, Laruga Glaser and Meghan Currie.

  1. Be patient and kind

Take your time. Come to understand your body’s strengths and limits by working attentively and intuitively. Don’t push it. You’ll get there when you’re good and ready.

  1. Let the practice lead

Listen. The practice is asking you to listen inside every shape. Find your edge and dance upon it by letting the practice lead.

  1. Mix it up

Go to vinyasa, hatha, body pump, boxercise, crossfit, pilates, swimming, cycling. Just doing asana is great but mixing things up can bring a whole new dimension to your practice.

  1. Go to classes

And go to different ones. Visit different cities, try new teachers, taste a different studio and be a student (especially if you’re a teacher).

  1. Have a home practice

Marrying your own practice with a good mix of regular classes means you can move on your own terms then get something you didn’t know you needed. Double win. Here’s a link to a whole host of different ways to develop a home practice and you can also practice here with me any time.

  1. Don’t have a goal

Sometimes having a goal can become an obstacle. It’s probably not what your life coach is telling you but goals can blind us to the presence of the process. Stay inside your practice, moment-by-moment, day-by-day, and the results will come.

  1. Don’t forget about yoga

If you’re focus is asana then that’s a wonderful thing but it’s not always yoga. Yoga is a state of being, not a shape you make. Keep asking yourself what your asana practice is teaching you about yourself.