The other day I attempted a pose that I haven't approached in a long time and wasn't in the least bit surprised to find that it was completely inaccessible. My hips felt tight and my knees felt perilous and I was disappointed for a moment or so before shrugging it off and moving along. That type of pose in particular has always been earned and never given for me and quite frankly I have not been doing much to earn it. And while I still have some lust and ambition for some of the bigger postures in yoga, my drive has lessened and my sights feel as though they have shifted.
I have long emphasized progress on the path of practice, and I still do, but the measure for that has tipped in the direction of the internal and more self-reflective aspects. While there was a phase in which I was more reckless in practice- hello 20-something Meg- and cavalier with my nervous system, I have always been on the more conservative end of the spectrum. I will take risks and I will push myself but not without the underlying confidence in my skill and ability. If that is not there, then I wait until I have developed it or if I do not choose to work on it then I clearly must not care enough to ever get it and well, I simply must be ok with that. For me, the risk of injury to the point of limiting my ability to practice at all, often outweighs my desire for a posture or movement, and I simply depend on my practice for my psychological health too much to risk it. Of course, there are unforeseen injuries and illnesses that have necessitated breaks in regular practice and that to me has always seemed like plenty. I have lived through several pregnancies and postpartum stretches of time that have dictated the needs of my body far more that the agenda of my will and, well, that is it's own particular challenge and surrender. I would like to be healthy and well in my body for as long as I can so that I may practice as well as I can with as little harm as I can for as long as possible.
Which is really where my sight is set now. Longevity in practice. The clock is only moving in one direction and while I know that I am still in the window of time as a practitioner to really explore the physical depths of my practice, I am beginning to think that the risk is too great and the amount of attention and time to cultivate and sustain that degree of opening and strength is more than I want to give. Perhaps this is tricky, but for me my kids are still young and at home and it is a delight for me to spend time with them exploring their developing interests and passions rather than diving down the worm hole of mine. And because my practice is regular and well developed, it also isn't going anywhere so I do not feel any risk of loss in that way.
None of this is to say that I am throwing in the towel. I am still working on opening my hips and deepening the curl in my upper spine. I still believe yogi dandasana and kapotasana are in reach if I spend a little more time working toward them. But I am also able to shrug it off and move along during the stretches of time where I cannot really touch those shapes. I am also not willing to mess with my nervous system or walk too far out on the end of the live wire in a way that may lead to physical harm. I am interested in the full and healthy function of my whole system.
This has been on my mind so much lately in a variety of different ways. I have been watching my teachers begin to back away from the deeper postures in their practices and their teachings. I have also been discussing and witnessing the shifts in the practices of my peers. I have been trying to pay attention to the injuries that are happening in the yoga world and how they are handled. I have also been feeling some concern for the ways in which yogis are served or not served once they do seek professional help for chronic or developing physical issues. This is something that I am just beginning to chew on, but it seems to me that the average PT is not so familiar with the range of motion more standard for a yogi and the risk seems higher when conventional exercises are applied to that sort of patient. I don't know, I am not a PT. But the PT's that I do know that are familiar with what goes on in practices such as mine have a different protocol that they adhere to than for someone with average range of motion. But I digress...
In my teaching right now I am loving decoding the basics in ways that unfold understanding in more progressive shapes. Fluency in a posture like Virabhadrasana One makes the approach into a shape such as Natrajasana so much more accessible. Perhaps, even more importantly, the way in which we begin to inhabit our physical self can be so profoundly developed in the basic asanas that we begin to carry that connection along with us: into the other shapes, sure, but more importantly, into the quality of our being-ness across the board. When we penetrate our understanding to such deep levels, we sustain the state of yoga for longer. I believe that to be true and I believe that there is a particular elegance in the teaching and studying of the basic shapes.
And sure, we are getting into more psychic and intuitive terrain here, but anybody that knows me and my teaching, knows that this is what I am most into and well, quite honestly, what it is all about for me at the core. The other day I taught my big Monday night class and Chris came to it which was amazing for me because he hasn't taken a class with me in years and I don't think has ever seen me teach to such a big group. Afterwards, of course, I drilled him for as much feedback as possible because he has seen my teaching from way back when I was a baby yoga teacher and holds that understanding of my growth and development- plus we are brutally honest with each other and both love constructive feedback, so there's that. Anyhow, I don't know how we got there but I really began to chew on this awareness I am uncovering in how the language of the practice effects me on a physical level. I am just talking people through the practice in the class. I very seldom do any of the postures and yet I feel the poses unfolding in my body as I am talking them through. As though I were teaching from and yet to my own cellular memory of the shapes. I think that this must be the resonant field of yoga and that the clarity of the alignment creates an energetic effect in the field, not just in ones own body but into the surrounding space and even into one another. Ha ha ha, um, Shakti?
Wow. If you are still reading I am so sorry for this wackado ramble. But maybe we have circled back around? To me life of practice means Life Of Practice. I want to spend my life touching the practice as regularly as I can and living life from the field of that awareness. If that means less depth is certain areas as time goes on, so be it. But I am still going to breathe and love myself into as much depth as I can maintaining as much peace and connection as possible.