I sat in my living room, cross legged at the top of the mat. Breathing, connecting with my heart, connecting with my body, connecting with my mind. My heart decided it was time my mind took a back seat and allowed my body to take the lead.
Mind: I’m going to give you autonomy today, I’ve no idea what you are going to do or where this is going to go, but I trust you to do whatever you feel is best for you in this moment.
Body: still….. nothing……
Body: Absolutely … no one home….
Mind: (slightly more convincing voice): Honestly body I’m handing this over to you. This practice is yours, I’m not going to do anything, I don’t care if you’re heels don’t touch the floor in downward dog, I don’t care if you can’t swing you leg from the back of the mat to the front in a nano second, just do whatever feels good for you and if that means sitting here breathing for the next hour…that’s what we’ll do. I’m here with you. (secretly praying for a response as I really didn’t fancy sitting there breathing for an hour)
Another long pause….
Finally a response…
Body: OMG have I been hijacked???????????????
Mind: I know, this is totally out of character, I know I have never done anything like this before, but trust me, I want to let you do your thing, I’m not going to tell you where or how to move, I’m just leaving it up to you. I’m taking a back seat. You trust me and I’ll trust you.
….Lots more breathing…..and gentle reassurance….
Sheepishly she started to move, at first like a terrified child who’d been trapped in a tiny hole, her tiny frame concaved by fear. I breathed deeply staying with her every step of the way. She started to sway from side to side, she moved so slowly, with a softness I never knew existed within me. She swayed side to side again, she curved her upper body forward, embracing the space before her, then falling back with ease. I couldn’t believe what my body was doing, she knew…….she didn’t need me there telling her what was next, she conveyed an elegance I had never seen. She warmed herself gently, preparing for the poses to come, I allowed her to lead.
I was mesmerised in absolute awe by the feeling, she was showing herself to me. I felt like I could have sat on the chair next to me and watched her and she would have carried on without me. But at the same time I was frustrated. She moved so slowly, and such subtle moves, “How long was this going to take?….What was I going to achieve here? There’s not really going to be much exercise in this for me”, I thought.
I recognised my ego here and thanked it for giving me the awareness to come back to my heart where I reconnected with my intention. I apologised to her, I told her it would take a little bit of time for me to get used to taking a back seat after trying to be in control for so long. I asked her to continue. I assured her this was what I wanted.
She gently positioned parts of my body one breath at time. She paused after each repositioning for another deep slow breath.
Her stillness gave rise to my frustration again, I misinterpreted it as losing my connection to her…..My patience rewarding me with an understanding that she likes to breathe slowly after each and every movement. I wasn’t used to this, my ego has no time for this when practicing yoga. I respectfully adjusted to her pace.
She took such care in aligning me in a way that allowed me to flow effortlessly into each pose, she was gaining my trust rapidly.
She carried me into poses that felt entirely different to anything I had ever tried, so gentle, with such agility and strength, such ease. She moved her arms and hands with such grace. She followed sequences I didn’t even know, sequences I had never practiced. Poses I had never seen. She knew them.…a remembering.
I quickly learned the difference between my mind trying to move her and her simply moving. With her, there was no resistance, her moves were beautiful, they were effortless, the went to places stunted by my ego, by my fears. My mind took a huge humble step back, “I had no idea you could move this way, I’ve been pushing you, distrusting you, forcing you, with all the wrong intent”.
Every time my mind tried to take control of her I could feel it. I came back to my breath… and to her…
Mind: I don’t know what the next movement is going to be but thats ok, I trust you
Mind: I am with you, you have my full attention
Mind: I will stay with you until you’re ready to move, I trust that you will move when you are ready
Mind: I allow you to move in the way that you need to, I trust you, I trust you will only move in a way that is good for me, I know you know what is best for me
Mind: I’m noticing that I’m anticipating the next move, when actually I have no idea what the next move is going to be and I’m ok with that, I don’t need to know. I trust that you know and I trust that it’s the right move for me in this moment.
She continued her dance more freely.
At times, I felt my body stiffen and suddenly it felt difficult again. I was resisting her lead, my ego had jumped in again, my mind had stopped trusting her. I paused in those moments and got honest with her.
Mind: Again, I feel resistant towards letting go
Mind: I feel this is my ego taking the next move, moving you because it wants to, not because you want to.
I paused again, reconnected to my breath, I gave my body permission to move again when she felt ready. I told her I trusted her to get me to the next pose safely, in a way that felt good to her.
It took several long, slow, breaths to regain her trust.
She showed me her strength and carried me forward. I thanked her from my heart. We breathed together. I arrived into the next pose without knowing how, we continued our dance.
Resistance continued to appear…..
She spoke this time….
Body: I feel your resistance, I allow this resistance, its normal, this is the first time you have ever really trusted me, it will take time to build your trust. It is ok to feel resistant, its ok, stay with the resistance, we can stay with it together, only let go when you feel ready, I won’t move until you do, stay with it and breathe.
We breathed together, we embraced the resistance, we welcomed it to the practice, we told it we would stay with it as long as it needed us. This was all that it needed to hear, emotions began to flow. We gave them the same welcome party, it seemed to work for resistance so why not…. and we promised not to bail on them either……… this relieved them, allowing my body and mind to continue their dance. My heart turned up the music.
The heaviness I usually felt in my body no longer existed as I moved slowly, so so slowly through poses that my stiffness (resistance) would usually not allow. But these moments of pure flow were temporary.
Again, I realised that I was no longer allowing my body to lead, again, I welcomed my resistance once more and we continued.
Once we allow the resistance and really feel this physical resistance in our body, we realise that the dead weight we feel in our bodies, that feeling of heaviness, stiffness, of rigidity in the body when you practice yoga is energetic resistance and stored emotions. It’s VERY real but often it is being created by the mind. By acknowledging our resistance, connecting to it, allowing it to be there, speaking to it lovingly, it gives us insights, keys to emotions we are holding onto, stay with them, comfort them, they will move through your body and your body will move through the pose.
I sat in silence after this practice, my mind literally blown away by what I had just experienced. One part of me felt like I had just discovered something ground breaking and the other part of me felt like I was just really late to the party. Because this, is Yoga.
All I could think of is wouldn’t it be great if this is how Yoga was taught?
Yes we are taught that Yoga is a union of the body, mind and spirit and what that means, and yes we are taught to find our breath and find our own expression of the pose. But wouldn’t it be amazing to be taught how to find our own practice entirely. I know yoga is taught this way in many places around the world, and the intention of Yoga is to find this experience within yourself, but this is not standard teaching practice in the Western World and it has never been my experience.
I had experienced Yoga for the very fist time, even though I had practised it on and off for several years. This is what our teachers are trying to teach us, where they are trying to take us, but I feel the manner in which yoga is taught doesn’t perpetuate this.
Isn’t this a reflection of our world in general, our society?
We all want to be the Guru instead of teaching the student they are their own guru. We teach one another to seek external advice about what to eat, whats best for our bodies, how to behave, how to have a relationship, how to educate our children, how to govern our people. It goes on on on. We are taught to believe that wisdom is outside of us.
We create positions of authority, of power, for ourselves. These positions are driven by fear. We fear that if we empower people to embrace whats inside of them, there will be no place for us in their lives. That we won’t be needed. But we have missed the point entirely. The very fact that we are here, that we are in existence in the first place, is proof that we are needed, we have a purpose. If you are alive, you are needed here. As teachers, of any kind, the greatest gift we can give our students is the knowing that they themselves are their own best teacher. We need not fear, there will always be more students ….
Rising another person up, showing them their own potential, giving them that power can only elevate you further into your own expansion, and the universe further into its expansion.
How utterly thrilling to be alive in a duration of space and time where we have this awareness and opportunity to intentionally participate in giving rise to a collective consciousness !!!
Photo Credit: Khoa Le