What is good yoga?

What is good yoga? What is strength? Is good yoga, strong yoga? 

After working with the theme of shoulders in class this week, I find myself thinking about these questions. We have such a perception in our society that we have to be perfect. That we have to be the best. That we have to continually improve, grow, gain...

But often this striving for perfection becomes the downfall, the block, the barrier...Trust me, I know. I have done this to myself. For most of my life. And, I am still learning that today is good enough. That showing up with full effort and releasing the result is perfection. No matter the outcome. 

Pattabhi Jois used to say, "Yoga is possible for anyone who wants it. Yoga is universal." He did NOT say, yoga is possible only when you can do a handstand or when you have the strongest chaturanga. He did not even say that you need arms and legs that function. (Jois is famous for teaching Ashtanga yoga to people will all manner of illnesses and disabilities...) 

No one knows your back story. No one knows if you are healing from an illness or an injury, recovering from several nights lost sleep, nursing a broken heart, been super stressed at work...or just starting on this yoga journey and slowly finding your way into the practice. On the mat, it matters not what anyone else thinks of your practice (to be honest, if they are practicing yoga, they are probably internally focused haven't even noticed what you are doing...) 

So what is it that you are carrying that you can put down? Our shoulders are strong and are meant to carry...but not everything. By letting go, by putting down, by NOT pushing, by NOT expecting or demanding perfection, we make space for possibility. We make space for the practice...and the life...that we really need.

...this is YOUR practice. For YOUR body, your mind and your heart...as they are today. This is enough. This is good yoga.  

 

Unravelling...

Have you noticed that life is actually a practice in the unravelling of knots? This may be a simple thing for a fisherman, or a weaver, skilled in knot-tying. But not so simple for the rest of us. 

As a species, we tend to get ourselves tied up into one knot, after another, after another. Stress, injury, emotional dilemma, traffic, national tragedy...large or small, these things tie our bodies, our minds and our hearts up into convoluted contractions that are slow to dissolve. 

Ironically, the process of twisting ourselves (albeit mindfully) further into something that feels like a knot, can help to dissolve the tied-up tension in our minds and our bodies. Twists wring us out. They are great for the back and the spine. They get our blood moving, our energy going and they help our digestion. Twists build core strength and...they teach us something very important about the tying and untying of knots: In order to twist fully and deeply, we must go slowly. We need our breath. And before we start to revolve into our twist, we must find length upward. 

When faced with difficulty, my first instinct is to react...strongly! At first, I want to yank, pull, push, work...harder and harder...to get it resolved.  And yet, by yanking on a knot, we only make it more, well...knottier.  Hmm....

See you all on the mat this week where we'll be twisting and turning to unravel tension in our hips, backs, shoulders, hearts and minds... 

Spaciousness

Space. Emptiness. Nothing. Or, to say it another way, no thing. In photographic design, this is called the use of negative space.

But why negative? Apparently, we are all mostly empty space. 99.999% of empty space, in fact. Atoms are filled with it. Our galaxy is filled with it. But take away matter and energy and you have this thing called nothing. This nothingness is infinite, eternal and indestructible. 

But what does this have to do with the practice of yoga? Our breath is energy (prana). Our bodies are physical in their movement. Our minds forever chatter with our thinking. And our lives?...these days most of us would say that our lives are full to the brim. 

In yoga, we practice with our breath and our body....with the energy and the matter that we have, right now today. We practice with these things and eventually, an awareness grows, a spaciousness arises, even in the midst of the busiest of days. 

If no thing can't be changed, it is always there. Always present. Always constant. Always everywhere. Without realising it, we are filled with the space of nothingness. We are filled with stillness. And this is really something

See you on the mat.