I have been having lots of fun with Hannah over the weekend here in New York. We managed a tourist trip up to the top of the Rockefeller building to take in the stunning views of Manhattan, we have been blessed with wonderful weather the last few days.
We walked and walked and walked, we pampered ourselves with manicures and pedicures (they are as popular in this city as Starbucks!) and we even managed to meet some friends of Hannah's and go to the theatre in West Village, a gay production no less, really good night, especially as we chanced upon this amazing angel and crystal shop. Hannah said I went into a trance and while we were somewhat limited for time I was completely oblivious to her trying to usher me out the door - obviously we invested in some crystals and her some more angel cards, bliss!!
On Sunday we met more friends for brunch at Jules Bistro set to live jazz, great stuff, lovely to see Shane and meet new friends. From there Union Square and some shopping because Hannah knows how to shop, it is indeed her passion and I am amazed how it can become so very addictive with all the deals everywhere! This time we chanced upon "Namaste" this incredible book shop with yet more crystals and cards and incense and music and all that stuff I love, so of course I have been back on my own since!!
Today while Hannah worked, I went to Yoga. Big style. Four hours in fact. I started with the intermediate class with Joe, the anatomy teacher on the Om Yoga teacher training course. I attended one of Joe's classes last time I was in town and like that time he inspired me again today with his intricate knowledge of the workings of the body when applied to Yoga asana.
He made a very subtle adjustment to my Tadasana, which has been a revelation for me in so many ways since. Initially I was wondering what effect he was trying to create by making this adjustment and then of course I felt it in my body, and then intellectualised it with my mind. And all of a sudden it dawned on me how important it is to play around with the manner in which we "hold" poses, how a subtle shift in alignment, can create a subtle shift in awareness, which can create, perhaps, a subtle shift in energy and with that, a shift in our life.
It sounds ridiculous perhaps, but the mind is in the body and it is also an instrument for the spirit. I have questioned this last year where we are aiming to go with our practice, should we always be trying to progress to new postures, or should we be content with where we are, and where we have been, does the emphasis move to sitting with the breath, to meditation, does asana drop away? Well all I can say is that for me, the body is the gateway, it works for me, right now and there is nothing wrong with that, we all reach our nirvana in different ways.
It reminded me. Many times while teaching more challenging poses I hear myself saying to students that perhaps it won't so life changing to actually eb able to do that pose. And in many respects I still believe that is true. in so much as it is not the "achievement" of poses that is important, but more so that we have practiced, that we are present, that we are mindful with our breath as we ease ourselves into new territory. If we are doing the pose without awareness, without the breath and perhaps merely through habit then I guess it won't be so life changing. The energy won't have shifted with the mind and the body.
One must remember the importnace of the journey, the small steps that ultimately create the transformation, because then there is not so much effort, it is more subtle. It is possible when seeing people trying the more challenging poses that they force and puff and pant their way into the pose, to be able to say they have done this pose or that pose. But really is that achieving very much? Unlikely. Better to go slowly, take the time and when the time comes so it will be. It is like Pattabhi Jois said, "practice and all will come".
And I think the point is that each asana does really have the potential to transform our life. It doesn't have to be that we can do the most amazing looking postures, or be the strongest person in the class, it can be as small as shifting the way we stand, just a millimeter of pressure change from heels and toes and back again can affect our energy, our connection with the earth, our root chakra and therefore the root chakra elements to our life. Perhaps we feel more grounded to the earth, more connected to our family and perhaps even more so, centered within ourselves. This, for me, is the key. how wonderful does it feel to be centered?!
I stayed and took the advanced class with Ani. This was a joy. I must admit within the first thirty minutes I was thinking, "oh no, not more sun salutations and planks and vasisthasana" but actually my body loves them, it always has, and at home in my own practice I don't challenge myself like this, if it starts to get uncomfortable I stop. You witness this in class when teaching, it is not that the body gets uncomfortable (although often it does and one does need to stop if an injury is likely) but the mind gets uncomfortable and wants to stop, it doesn't always like going out of the comfort zone. How can we transform and allow the soul to shine if we stay stuck in a comfort zone?
What I also noticed in class today was something I read about in a Yoga magazine a few weeks ago. There are good students and bad students and often teachers are bad students, because they don't do what they are told, more so they do what they want to do. It is not just teachers, I do have some students in my classes who are prone to leading at their own pace, to rushing through postures to reach an end, whatever that may be, rather than listening to the instruction and being led, allowing their awareness to be in the body and in the moment, rather than in their head. And today was no different with students beside me leaping into handstand before finishing their sun salutation and sneaking in a head stand while in prasrita padottansana.
It was an advanced class but this didn't mean that we did ten more sun salutations than we would do in an intermediate class, or that we held poses for longer, if anything the "advanced" means more subtle. More subtle movements, more control and awareness of space on the mat as we flowed from one pose to the next, and yes of course a few more challenging poses, some arm balances I don't get the opportunity to practice with teaching instruction, and of course more inversions and back bends. It really was a joy and I left the centre feeling taller, lighter, clearer and more energised. I love it!!
A huge thank you to the om Yoga teachers who have blessed me with their knowledge and energy, they are indeed special teachers, I am learning a lot from them, not only as a student but for my teachings too. Om Namah Shivaya.
It is my last day tomorrow so I have booked in for another 4 hours of Yoga and if I am really lucky one of those may well be with Cyndi Lee, whose books and music have inspired me so much these last few months.