Peg out your tent the Iyengar way.
Yes, a yoga practice has some parallels to camping.
When we pitch a tent, we take care to peg out the base to its fullest shape. We don’t leave a corner all puckered up. We peg down the corners and we take care to tension the surface evenly because we have learnt that the base and correct tensioning affects how well the tent stays up in a storm.
The same applies within an asana, we have to work with the base and tensioning of the pose so that the experience of the practitioner is that of stability and support. Unlike the tent, that does not have an ‘experience’ of itself, the practitioner of Yoga does. Within asana, when we experience stability and support, it means that our energy is tensioned evenly across our structure and that there is adequate room, or space, within both the body and the mind, to adjust to the relationship of forces. In this state there is a feeling of interest and excitement because something is happening within 'me'. Our sense of "I-ness" changes: I am different, I am more stable, I am energised, I am light. Our imprint of the Self that we understand ourselves to be has been affected by the practice.
In the Iyengar tradition, the practitioner first learns to respond to the force of gravity. The body is a weighty object and poor alignment loads joints and muscles. To release tension in muscles that are straining against gravity we have to support the body structure. After the taking care to support the weighty energy, then comes the more subtle energy, like the circulation of blood, the breath and awareness itself. Learning to listen to the fundamental needs of the body for support, stability and space, and to develop the skill of watching the mind, can be tricky.
When we are young in our practice the glimpses we get into the experience of "support" are often drowned out in the "do better", "push harder", or the "I am not good enough", "do I look okay," dialogue within our personality. It is only when we are familiar with a pose that we can pay more focused attention to the base, and from here learn to track the relational forces: front, back, left, right, inner and outer. In this process our practice becomes ‘generative’. The practice generates energy. We feel supported, different somehow. Our mind set changes and we become 'recipients' of the practice, rather than 'doers'. This shift in mind set is critical. If we remain doers the control aspect of our personality holds emphasis and the good/bad, right/wrong continues to dominate the experience. When we develop a learning mindset and become intrigued and captivated by mentally entering the experiential world of balance, space, stillness and silence: the integrative function of intelligence is strengthened. We have fundamentally shifted from "mindless Doing" to "intelligent Being".
Yoga, as a practice of "intelligent Being" is not only generative, energetically. Through a practice of intelligent Being we are also gifted with a sense of contentment. Content because we are present within the embodiment. We literally cannot live our life unless we are IN our bodies. We can imagine all the things that we want to do, but without a body that can mobilise sufficiently, and a mind that can hold concentration and focus for long enough to complete tasks, we are unable to truly LIVE our life. When we are 'home' in our bodies we are content because we reconnect to the task of living. Right here. Right now.
When we are fully present our actions are synchronous with the needs of arising situations.
When mind, body and breath function as a unified force there is only moment. Breath is in the body, mind is with breath and body, here and now. Mind, body, breath, time and space. When we are fully present our actions are synchronous with the needs of arising situations. We no longer impose our small mindedness upon the events of our life; we respond from a sense of fullness.
When we go camping, we sit in awe of the magnificence of the mountain, the ocean, the sky. We go there because we recognize that some thing changes within us when we sit quietly within the wonderment of nature. We say I am different, I am happier, I am energized, I am more content. When we practice yoga as 'intelligent Being' we are 're-membered'. The fragmented parts of our selves and our Self, are brought together in time and space. As we sit in the wonderment of our embodiment: our microcosm of the macrocosm of nature, we remember that we are one with the forces of nature.
Only in moment, and in clarity, can we emotionally accept the responsibility for our actions. In accepting and owning reponsibility we evolve great meaning for ourselves. There is immense freedom and peace in this way of living. The body is engaged with, only as an instrument. An instrument that allows us to enter the realm of experience. We learn to cultivate experiences of being supported, spacious, calm and energised. We start to feel the possibility of a life lived beyond fear, beyond a survival mentality, beyond the highs and lows of getting what we want only to realise we still don't feel content.
Be prepared to let go and be willing to receive if you are really interested to walk the yoga path. It might look like all we do is a set of poses but what is going on inside a practitioner has more to do being on a holiday than it has to do with exercise. Practice becomes a sacred place, a ‘holy-day’ where we feel reverence because we experience a power that is beyond the front brain to comprehend. We sit in awe of the great opportunity we call 'life' and we soak it in. Who are we to be blessed with this magnificance? Best we cherish every moment.
If you are interested to create space for your Self through an weekend workshop or retreat with Polly, click here to see the what is available in 2019.
Recently I have the privilege of welcoming Russell into the teaching body of the school. Day to day, week to week over the last 5 years I have watched and walked alongside him. Yoga as pilgrimage is the phrase that comes to mind. When we go in search of new or expanded meaning about ourselves, or a higher good - through experience - the journey is called a pilgrimage. When we learn the practice of yoga as pilgrimage it is a journey of encountering powerlessness and at the same time inner strength, confidence and great clarity and purpose.
“As soon as there is stopping, there is happiness. There is peace. When we stop like that, it looks as if nothing is happening, but in fact everything is happening. You are deeply established in the present moment, and you touch your cosmic body. You touch eternity. There is no more restlessness, no more seeking.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Until you experience it, you can’t believe that pressing into your feet in dog pose can affect your mind – in a calming way!