So my practise is pretty much on the back burner right now, a slow simmer whilst I attempt to find some balance, recovery and stability in my actual life, and although I don’t practise so much or so hard, it is always there having this mental discussion with me.
Every now and then I have revelations about the What, How and Why of my relationship with the practise, and like all long term relationships there are oscillations, ups and downs, attachment and the opposite- time apart where we can work things out more clearly from a safe distance.
I've come to realise that I can't be mad about not practising like I did before, people are always changing, developing, growing... I don’t pine after what it once was to me, this passionate and exciting affair. It is hard to accept but it is quite clear to me that much of my initial illusions I had about the practise, have in fact turned to disillusions. This initially makes me feel sad and confused and even rather stupid. Especially the allure of the mastery of the poses and the art of the aesthetics of being able to do all the postures and transitions seamlessly one day.
We have all realised and talked this year about how it is not the case that if you practise with enough dedication for a long enough time this can be achieved. For me it’s simply never going to happen, a friend once couldn’t understand why my practise wasn’t 'progressing' quickly enough. We all have this linear ideal projection implanted in our heads based on what we see and perhaps imagine and fail to take into account our unique bodies, personalities and lives.
I realise now, stupidly late, that I get a lot of exercise and body conditioning at work, so my body isn't fresh when I come to practise, it probably needs relaxation rather than a workout!! And where my body has developed strength and robustness for what I do with it in my daily life it (of course) doesn't make any sense to me at all now to work doggedly on deep flexibility in order to do a pose perfectly, I'm talking about deep postures here, say Supta Kurmasana or Kapotasana. You might think I am pretty flexible, I am in terms of normal people, but in Ashtanga terms I am not! I would in fact be going against the natural intelligence of my body’s design if I blindly worked to undo all of it’s life's work of conditioning it to be strong! You may know I have been looking closely at the bodies and skeletons of my fellow practitioners, all of which differ hugely and come to realise that I don’t have the most ideal design for this practise and so perfection is never going to be a goal, no matter how much my ego thinks so. My limbs are too short, my spine long and not so bendy, my hips too heavy ! This could even lead to injury and pain if I forced. Some things just don't make sense in my body, or the effort required to do them is just colossal or needs hours or years of ‘workshopping’ and trying- this is not what the sequence was designed for.
On a wider note know that many of practise in bodies very different to the original yogis, often in colder climates too, and we may come to the practise (designed and used for the young eager yet undisciplined mind and agile body) much later in life!
And so here I am, being, reflecting, reassessing once more the reasons for my practise and what the future of our relationship will look like. I miss the innocence of our old relationshipwhere we were totally in love, where there was no overthinking, where we just flowed and neither it nor I seemed to have any flaws.
Having naturally distanced myself from being so involved in my own personal practice and all the recent phase of pose break- down work and problem- solving, workshopping and generally butting my head on a wall (trying to get my leg behind my head) I have come to understand that what is getting in the way of my YOGA is that my illusion has turned out to be disillusion!!!! And I am coming to terms with that slowly.
I now feel like I don't need any more postures! I have quite enough I can work with. Harmony Slater once mentioned in one of her wonderful podcasts how this is apparently a ‘thing’, somedays I actually feel I have worked my eight limbs, all of them, just standing in Samastitihi! Also Kino MacGregor once said that less is more, all you really need are a few basic poses for you to really drop in deeply to the yoga. It seems that the more you experience the state of yoga, the less you need to work to get there.
This makes utter sense, yoga being a method and a state. Maybe it's just me like learning to ride a bike; so in the beginning you have your stabilizers and you learn the basics and you’re really wobbly and after a time you lose one stabilizer, then both, then you're doing it! And you go from gross to subtle and you start to get knowledge of all the variables of your brakes and gears and you become a master and you could do it in your sleep…I kind of feel in my case that I got to the point where I don't actually need the bike anymore if that makes sense! You could say the same for a musician learning scales or a painter his drawing and mark- making skills.
The tools that I used to get me here to understand this YOGA are not needed so much anymore! I don't really need them like I used to, I certainly don't cling to them for dear life or crave them or depend on them. And so again there's a yoga ‘method’ ( and there are many) and there's a ‘result’ and then there's a ‘change’ and once the change becomes profound perhaps you don't need so much method anymore.
And so now I am kind of left hanging.
And here I am just trying to figure out what I do now or next. I am figuring out WHY I truly get on my mat. The answer to that one is simple actually- I am not such a good person when I don't! It grounds me, sorts me out, calms me down, contains my mind and gives me control aka freedom over it, everyday my senses are bombarded in the external world and this can be exhausting and confusing… practise brings about a sense of Peace for me, sometimes spontaneously and brings me back to my clear perception. It is like going to church if you are religious, it keeps you in touch with your faith, it reminds you that there is more to life than what we see and gain, that there is a world of consciousness and energy and truth.
But only if the mind goes quiet. This has been the trap I have fallen into.
I must get back to that flow state, to consciousness, to doing it with enough skill and focus that it holds me there but not so much ego or desire that i get pulled off track each time i reach something I cannot do, the way must lie in letting go and accepting a route that fits with my flow and keeps me going forward and inwards.
Read on to Part 2 Does Mind spoil Yoga?