10 Things to Know About Yoga
1. Have a long term vision for your practice – yoga does not work quickly, however, it works DEEPLY. Far beyond the sensation of stretch, your practice will create transformation for your bones, joints, balance, respiration, circulation, immune function, stress response and neurochemistry. When you have an enduring relationship with your practice, you have time to settle in, explore, nourish.
2. The most powerful and profound benefits of your practice, you will neither see nor feel. The subtle, unseen aspects of asana are where the magic occurs. Which is why…
3. The poses are empty – just shapes we make with the body – what we fill them with – the intention, alignment, actions – are what matters. When you understand this…
4. The Mat is a Metaphor. We practice to step under the microscope, to run experiments in consciousness, the revel in the playground of the body. During our practice, we can examine not just patterns in movement, but patterns in the mind (including self-talk), emotions (how do you respond to challenge? Discomfort?) and spirit (when do you feel connected? Authentic?)
5. Body is the Gateway – your body is the most dense physical aspect of your self. We can see, feel and notice changes in the body more easily than the mind, nervous system, emotions. Pattahbi Jois had a famous saying, “body not stiff, mind stiff” and through the body, we break up petrified patterns of being. Karma that has hardened and trapped us.
6. A direct experience of interconnection. The practice allows us to experience the web of life that the body is a part of. Most of us are so associated with our minds which is linear, once we have a direct experience of the web of the body – so removed and outside the functionality of the mind – then we can start to apply this web of connection to the whole of reality.
7. Fit the Pose to the Body, not the Body to the Pose – use the postures and “classical form” as a template. Cultivate curiosity about what is appropriate for you? Seek space before reaching for depth. Push against your personal boundaries, and move with respect and compassion for your limitations.
8. Emphasize Stability as much as Flexibility. Sthirum/Sukham. We’ve done yoga a great dis-service by associating it with stretching. After a few years, stretching will become a liability and you’ll need to focus more on stability. Progress won’t come from getting more flexible, it will develop from more integration.
9. Develop Deep Core – in the older traditions of practice there is great emphasis on the bandhas, these are smaller, deeper “endurance” muscle groups that help to stabilize spine and generate lightness and lift. When the bandhas are active, then we get the “magic” of floating and flying in the asana. Plus, all our other activities become more stable and graceful.
10. Yoga is both a science and an art. There are anatomic realities and law of physics. We use the alignment and actions to engage with these intelligently. Then there is the expressive art, the magic that we can explain but only elude to. We use the breath and the space to invite this magic in… Like poetry is just words, yet it can stir your soul. The asana practice is just postures, yet they can awaken divinity.