Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar Yoga, Power Yoga, Yin Yoga; whatever your choice of style is, I’m sure we’d agree that we could also refer to these as ‘Postural Yoga practices’.
To work with a study of posture, raises the question; how do we assess posture in our body?
A common tendency, in a Yoga practice, is to take information and notes on posture from books & magazines, demonstrations from teachers or even imitating our neighbours in the class.
In one of my previous posts on this blog, I try to discuss the reality that each persons body is unique, perhaps only subtly, perhaps greatly. But with this in mind, it suggests to me that taking information and ‘correction’, using external references, means that we are not really ‘connecting with our body’ (one of the fundamentals of an Asana/Postural Yoga practice).
It was only when my wife, Isabel Slingerland (www.issymoves.com), returned from her ‘Advanced Forrest Yoga Teacher Training’ where I believe I felt a specific shift in focus of the class, to work with ‘feeling’. By ‘feeling’, this means not simply feeling joy, excitement, pain or sadness; rather, I was guided to feels the physical sensations, ‘the gentle release of tension from the muscles’, ‘the zinging in my legs’, ‘the shining of my heart’. Wow! This was a true revelation!
Even as a dancer, an acrobat or a dance teacher; I had never been able to process or understand the ability to ‘feel’ what I was doing. Perhaps I had tried to feel for ‘switching on turn-out’ or, as I often feel in the aforementioned disciplines, ignore the pain, push beyond it!
By ‘tuning in’ and really listening to the subtlest of changes in the tissues, I became much more connected to the mechanisms, the workings of the functioning body.
This ability, to feel-in-practice, arrived to me when I was first training as a Yoga teacher, thanks to the support from Isabel, and have served me well when I began teaching classes; but it has also been of such relevance to my training and work as a bodyworker/therapist.
What should I be doing in practice?
My advice, drawing from the lessons I learnt from the inspiring teaching mentioned above, simply go on a ‘quest for feeling‘. Change the perspective of your practice from one of ‘seeking postural alignment and clarity‘. Instead, try working with a ‘sensual posture’; ask yourself, ‘What does this posture bring me, through sensation?‘ then simply observe that sensation, notice how it may change, its responses to your playful nature in practice. Keep your body moving, changing the pressure in the posture, alter your direction of push or pull; whatever helps you find the most interesting and pleasurable sensation in the body.
Pleasure isn’t something to be avoided in your practice! For those who like rhyming poetry,
‘Pain is NOT gain; pleasure is the treasure!’Anthony Middleton (the Body Engineer)
If you can hone in on those skills to feel your practice, you inherently become a much more safe and stable practitioner. For me, attaining this is understanding and connection, is the real embodiment of the first limb of Raja yoga, Asana.