Sunday, February 22, 2015

A different kind of flow

If every yoga class you walked into started with the same breathing chants, same movements, same flow, same timing, same pattern from start to finish, would you be bored, or would you embrace the routine? Would the routine become dogmatic movements or could you, would you, keep refining and exploring your breath, your postures, your movements so that they were seamless and graceful, fluid and strong? Would you be able to vary your effort and modify the poses based on how you felt that day, or would you keep trying to "perform" the same every single day?

Sometimes, you just have to change things up completely to break the ritual to prevent it from becoming habitual. No where that I have studied has it said that you MUST do Surya Namaskar A exactly as in a textbook. No teacher that has imparted their wisdom has faulted me for exploring different ways to express my movements. In order to make yoga mine (or, yours), it must fit what you need, integrate your essences and help you grow your understanding of yourself.

So, why not move a little differently? 

Create your own flow that focuses on subtle graceful movements, and focused muscular engagement rather than pure momentum and power to get you thru a sequence. Refine from the ground out, from the inside out, rather than just taking the form of the pose and then trying to force the body to a static hold.

Try circling the arms and lifting one knee up, balacing on one foot not just at the ankle, but inside the foot, up the calf, around the front and back of the thigh, deeply into the hip, reaching the spine up up up the arms up up up, shoulder strongly rooted on the back and the drshti soft in front of you. Hold the lifted leg with integrity, rather than like a dead weight. Breathe fully into the thoracic cavity, then as your sweep the arms with control back down, bring the lifted leg down. 

With minimal transition of weight to the other side, repeat with the other leg. Continue a few cycles, left up, right up, engaging the low belly, strong upright posture and healthy spinal curves, with minimal extra movements - don't let the energy "leak out" through inactive limbs (limp ankles or wrists) or be drained away by extra movement made with momentum (aka "flinging body parts"). Like strong cables wrapped around a healthy framework move seamlessly through the sequence, not really pausing but transitioning very slowly, guided by the breath. Placing the foot down is a silent and easy process - noiseless and gentle.

Add on to this movement, take the leg back, side, twisting the body, straightening the leg, even bowing forward. All this work in the core, all this control with the raised arms, all this lengthening of of the body and intentional placement of limbs creating a harmonious, integrated yet unconventional flow that just may take you deeper into a practice of mindfulness.

You can intensify by adding stepping forward (or back, or sideways) to lunges or straddles but doing so place the limbs quietly, shifting your center of gravity and really call the muscles into action. I like to conjure images of a dancer in my mind, each movement strong without being forceful, controlled without being rigid, energy stored and released in just the right way to make the entire being vibrate with light. 

Or you can intensify by taking deeper and long inhales and exhales, and slowing down your movements even more, practicing balancing along each increment of body positions, feeling the heart rate calm and noticing subtle shifts in energy as the heart beats and the internal seems to move more quickly than the external!

Just a few suggestions  - let me know what works for you!

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