I always find it interesting how we can have such different perspectives of the same thing. I have noticed this cropping up a bit in my life recently, a lesson I think in judging things, but that aside I have been fascinated by it.
For example the other day we were driving and we could notice something lying in the road ahead of us and I was absolutely convinced it was a dead seagull and had reacted as such so that already I was doing the "oh no, poor thing" and thinking about how Ewan would feel compelled to stop and move it to the side of the road, in respect really. But alas when we got to said seagull, it was not a seagull at all but a plastic bad all squashed up.
It really made me think how often we perceive things to be a certain way only to later realise that our perceptions were exactly that, perceptions, which will be subjective and different for everyone, reminding us that there is no one way. There are different ways to see the same thing. And from that comes a whole dialogue about judging.
But what interested me this week was how this showed up in class on Monday night. It was a tough class I believe, in so much as I was fully energised and had practiced a relatively challenging Cyndi Lee practice that morning (following a recording of a class she has taught at a yoga festival in Vermont in the Spring so the students were all primed for such a class) and that had undoubtedly influenced my teaching that evening.
It seemed that it was a little bit of a marmite class. You either loved it or you loathed it. It was the same class for all those people, but perceptions where very different. I think Cyndi would call it a "sponge class" and I like this analogy, because what it means is that the class wrings you like you wring a sponge, so that you can see what happens when you are squeezed (challenged then).
And all sorts of things happen. Some thrive on a challenge, rise to the challenge in fact and find they can move their bodies and find new boundaries, experience new things, have positive realisations, connect more so with their breath, notice the limitations of the mind and let go of these and feel more empowered then in their practice and perhaps later in their life.
Others, however, are all wrung out and do not like what they find - the inner judgements are highlighted, they feel rubbish about themselves and their bodies and they question what this yoga malarkey is all about, isn't it meant to make you feel better about yourself? Isn't it all about calming the mind?
Well yes and no. Ultimately, yes, yoga can help to still the mind, reduce suffering and enable us to experience more inner peace and harmony. But this is not a constant. how can you know light without knowing the dark, how can you know happiness without feeling sad, and how can you know peace without knowing suffering.
So some days out yoga practice challenges us. It will - as this class showed - be different for everyone depending on what is going on in your life, in the mind and indeed the body, how you are feeling on any given day. Our yoga practice can show us, make us very aware then of our negative tendencies.
Perhaps we find we judge ourselves constantly in life, feeling we are not good enough, this is wrong or that is wrong, we are never as perfect as everyone else feels. Well certainly this will show up. We will have days when we are very aware of this mental patterning. And it will feel desperately uncomfortable. Perhaps the class is physically demanding, or focuses on hips and our hips are tights, so we feel really rubbish about ourselves. Well here is the opportunity to try and figure out what is underneath those negative tendencies, what is driving them, where is it, what is it?
And other days we are at one with ourselves, the practice is a joy, our body does what we want it to do and we love yoga. We want to practice it all the time because it helps us feel better about ourselves. We feel we are healed, we want to share yoga with everyone, it is the way!!! And this is great. Until we have a sponge class. And it all comes back again. And we realise that we are still not healed, that stuff is still there. SIgh. Will we ever accept ourselves as we are.
Well yes. Over time. And with practice. The more we learn to recognise that it is just our thinking that is making us feel this way or that way, then the more we are able to change those thought patterns and the habits and the negative tendencies. And this is yet another reason that I love yoga. for it gives us just what we need, when we need it most. You just have to learn - as with life - to let it go.
I mean there is a whole other issue here about working say, on hips, or the heart and what that throws up for us, because we sit on a lot of emotions and they get stuck in our hips and our practice can start to bring this up and this can make us feel angry and frustrated and tearful and irritated, and this should be embraced for it means the stuff is coming up for us to acknowledge (not get involved with) and let go...gone, hoorah, lighter body, happier hips.
The heart too of course, lots of stuff gets stuck here, so we do backbends and it makes us feel terrible vulnerable and sometimes sad and sometimes happy and sometimes terribly exposed and we feel all those emotions that we have been held there all this time, the old stuff, the new stuff, the broken hearts and all that pain. Sometimes it is terribly challenging and sometimes it is terribly enlightening.
Whatever arises, try not to take it home with you, try not to react to it, try not to get attached to it, or run away from it. Like a vinyasa, it arises, it abides and it dissolves. As we will do one day. Sponge practices are great for recognising and experiencing this and who knows what will happen the more we work with this, become aware of this, noticing our automatic ways of reacting...
"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers". M Scott Peck
With gratitude x