Making the Shift from Class to Home Practice.

Yoga practices create change and the tools of transition are met daily within a personal, solitary, practice.  Photographs of yoga practice can be inspiring and create community; sadhana, but they are not a representation of practice. The rhythm of practice is marked by the accumulation of patterns of wear and tear on our mat and words in our journals, as we move into and out of stillness, creating cycles of turning inwards to work and outwards in relationship.   The change that yoga can support is one of clarity and care.  In relationship to ourselves but also to those whose lives we occupy whether that be an interwoven relationship or momentary meetings.  Care not only to the physical but the emotional lives we lead.  A curiosity about our minds as well as our body, these silent conversations, that are incessantly in flux and a practice that moves us behind and beyond to the core of us.  A core of sure and steady knowing of our body and our minds. 

From our experience of yoga being in a group situation, being held through a practice by a teacher, how can we make that shift to this rhythm of practice, self-reflection and development?

Creating the space to bring yoga daily into our lives in a very practical experience and sometimes an uncomfortably honest one. 

Most of us have daily habits and create space for them.  Some of these habits serve and strengthen, others create distance and disconnection.   We have a set pot of time that we are working with.  Our practice works when it becomes high value enough in our lives that we allocate time for it, often replacing another habit with our practice.  What we replace is important, yoga is not a path of renunciation or withdrawal.  Our practice moves away from yoga if it at the expense of participation in life, family and community.   In time we can acknowledge and notice what no longer serves us or what we can reduce to allow time for practice.   I am excited to see that self-care is being acknowledged and addressed, it is vital we begin our path by caring for ourselves, coming into knowing with ourselves.  Encouraged by viveka, this self-realisation and healing, it is in turn vital to be aware of our ripples of effect on those around us and in our relationship with the environment.  How we are, what we buy, how we eat, our footprint, all become part of our practice; yoga.

Often our initial desire to practice at home regularly comes from a real and present need that is affecting our quality of life; back pain, insomnia, anxiety or from an increasing desire to know more.  A well-known chant sounds that only through yoga, yoga is known.  We can read and talk about yoga and this can be a huge support, however only from a regular and repeated turning inwards and an increasing subtle understanding of our body, breath and patterns of thoughts can yoga begin to be known.  So how do we make our practice high value and how do we work compassionately with how difficult it can be to get on the mat?

There are lots of housekeeping tips and nudges that can help.  Making a special space; think hygge, think unplugging.  Be realistic, short and doable can make all the difference.  Find the right time of day for you.  Be accountable to your practice without shame or burden.  A teacher working in relationship and partnership with you designing a practice that is relevant and personal. Take support from something for your practice, offer and make intentions for your practice to something more than yourself.  All of these things will help.

However, the crux of making a personal practice habit, is not a beautiful space or simplifying our days to create more space and time, the crux is make it relevant, make it kind, make it honest and create space for listening and change. 

 

Reflecting on the people over the years that I have supported into a personal practice and my own practice over 25 years,  bringing your practice home from class to a personal practice  is about finding the right support from your practice to come into a loving, honest, compassionate and content relationship to oneself.  Valuing and elevating your body whilst learning not to be fearful of the stillness and the thoughts that occupy. Beginning to experience the clarity that comes when we begin to see we are not these thoughts.  We experience how our day is left in our body and the signals it gives, when we witness the connection between stress and shoulders or weak bodies from being in our head too much and we shift this through yoga practice. 

Do I continue to find a daily practice difficult? I do.  However, I am constantly reminded and aware how the simplest discipline has the most profound effect not only on myself but on my relationships around me.  My practice can be a warm bath or a kick up the backside but it’s constantly evolving and yet staying grounded in structure and tradition.  There is nothing woolly about the discipline of yoga, it goes beyond a picture and a quote of inspiration, it is work.    Ultimately in our personal practice we are our own teachers, there is independence and autonomy, and this is held in turn within a relationship to our teachers and this shared cherished space.

For those of us who are teachers a personal practice is an ongoing requirement of authenticity to this path.  As teachers it can be helpful to be aware of whether our practice shifts towards being a rehearsal for teaching, and to find support for making our yoga a practice for our own story.  We bring this journey to our teaching and our teaching to others’ and our own journeys.  Parallel but separate paths.    It is vital that we bring what we know from our own experience of yoga to our teaching, and that we apply what we know to the people we work with translating into a practice specific and relevant to them for change.

 

I often say make your practice like wiping your bum, not an optional extra in life!  Make it compassionate and true, let it be however it is, but just keep returning to the mat with your heart open and held.

A blog begins...

A blog begins....

I'm not one for blogging, I don't love social media but I also see what a huge support it can be and sometimes I read something that hits home and makes a difference in my perceptions and practice.  I'll try to offer a thread now and again that binds us together.  Here goes.....

Staycation- Surviving being with yourself.

It has been a stay-cation summer of puppies, fishing,  camping, cooking outside; it's brought a lot of joy.  And dog pooh.  Thoughts about my practice, with no work and travel, have been deafening.  Quietening my mind with daily writing about my practice and it's relationship to happiness as well as processing reading about the science of happiness has fueled me.

We have been renovating inside and outside the house, it's been filthy, it hasn't gone to plan and what I crave all year; escape and travel has not been possible.  There have been some days of illness and  fatigue.  My hormones are changing and how I respond to food and exercise is shifting and creating challenge.   Does it challenge happiness?   Yep.  In this self enforced stillness, staying,  witnessing of chaos, this being, I have had the opportunity to observe my own relationship with what makes me happy,  and what I 'think' makes me happy.  Well being- the cognitive and physical processes that get in the way, as well as simple practices that make a significant difference.  I am a developer, an adventurer and have a strong work ethic.  Whether that's about teaching yoga or making sourdough, I am busy. I have been able to do this because of my practice, my daily stillness, movement and breathing that counter-poses life. I've realised that happiness can often feel like it's at the tip of my tongue, just around the corner, at the next stop, when I'm done, finished, completely or achieved.  That I am busy practicing for happiness.   In the same way I remind myself on the mat that it is not a rehearsal for practice but this is THE practice.  Here and now, dukha or sukha, good space or bad space.  Happiness will not come from achievement or what I get done.  I'm not describing a profound set of achievements but feeling that peace will come when all the socks are paired.  Instead I am increasing space for being and restoring off the mat as well as on.  I always strive to create a life around my children that has both love, security and adventure.  That they come home to a warm environment and good food.  That life with my partner is sincere, loving and full of growth.  Waiting for things to become does not bring happiness.  What if we radically decided to embrace ourselves, our lives, the people in our lives as they are with a sense of gratitude and acceptance. (of course not those that abuse) What if our greatest rebellion would be to be content.  I value seeking pleasure, I value growth through challenge.  I will continue to keep a path of Kriya yoga, discipline in practice, self reflection and yoga being more than just practice on the mat.  But let the Niyama Santosha (contentment of life as it is) be the new hand stand in our practice.

Written in the Body

Written in the body

At some point in our lives we experience trauma.   An event that overwhelms us and during its happening our bodies freeze, we are unable to respond with our normal skill set of words, actions and strategies.

In survival mode we may fight or flee trauma but also in our most basic survival ‘being’ we freeze.  The act, the history of the trauma not only creates a memory, it is also left in our body. It becomes written there. We are left with ongoing symptoms and physical reactions to the event.

There is no hierarchy to what we find traumatic; from the tangible trauma of an accident or attack, to the powerlessness of a child trapped in a dentist chair, to flying consumed with fear but silent in embarrassment. The trauma women experience through childbirth when their lack of support leaves them without a voice, within a birth state which inhibits cognition and self-advocacy.  Even when there is an opportunity to reason and to cognitively explain, a memory, a shadow of varying hues remains in the body.  Written in shapes of tension within our frame, in the response of our breath and heartbeat to the mirror of smells and sights that reflect and echo the trauma.  
 
It can feel like it’s ongoing effects come from no where, that we are stuck. A separateness and dislocation from ourselves occurs. Healing from trauma goes beyond thinking and talking it through.  Along side talking therapies the experience can be reintegrated and disempowered by finding a safe way to work with the body.   With support, when we return home to our bodies, move and unravel from the shapes that trauma leaves in our muscles and in the way we hold our frame, we can provide a pathway to healing that goes beyond words. We can create safe incremental opportunities to work and release the traumatic energy from our bodies so that the replaying and the symptoms left in our body lessen. We find a pathway to re-becoming whole.

We become friends once more with the body that to survive froze, was passive and overwhelmed. Where we were squashed we can re open and reclaim the space our bodies wanted to occupy.  We can re-establish boundaries that were blurred or lost. Not as a project to be fixed, but as a body a person,  full of continued growth.  By finding the language of movement and breathing, reclaiming awareness and connection to our body through yoga we can grow from the trauma. Through finding the right asana practice, we can find connection to our bodies, slowly, without being overwhelmed.  Through meditations on gratitude and forgiveness, especially self-forgiveness, if we feel we did not protect ourselves and can not understand why we froze, we can learn to be re-present in the now.   The toxicity of fear and anger can leave the body.

 
Self love teaches us to normalise trauma that it happens not to us alone, we are not singled out. Yoga offers an approach to personal integration, a safe unfolding space where we can sit with feelings and sensations to allow them to mature from the body.  It is the opposite of relooping the trauma it is about becoming fully present to now. 
The opposite of reliving; in this moment, now, I am alive, I am whole. Yoga can give you the tools to become unstuck from where you were and allow and guide that part of you to time travel into the present. We can soften the armour we created, we can give stability to the boundaries that we lost. Through practice in time, we can enjoy being in our bodies without distraction and welcome stillness in our thoughts so that we can really begin to notice where we are.  Safe and sound.

As a teacher I work to teach what I know as it applies to you, as an individual.  When I support people through yoga my own experience gives me skills but it does not occupy your space.  Observation and listening to you can only occur deeply when the space we share is not about me, so I offer my following experience to break down barriers of feeling alone in trauma and to offer some light for you if sitting within your body sometimes feels dark.

I have lived beyond traumatic events, one of which was diagnosis and recovery from breast cancer. These have shaped my practice on the mat and my teaching.  They are the story of who I am.  Reflecting on the latter experience with distance I now find intriguing and sometimes use elements of it as signposts with those I work with.  During diagnosis and treatment from cancer I was resilient, focused and in every cancer cliché ‘strong’. I was in fight mode even though I find analogies to battling breast cancer incongruous.    Cancer was my body gone wrong. I was never battling myself. I was fighting the fear of illness and death and it’s impact for my family and my children.  Following a mastectomy, When treatment finished and the prognosis couldn’t have been better, after an initial euphoria I became undone.  The physical trauma of amputation, treatment and the emotional trauma of fearing death had left their story in my body and in my actions. The reality of the level of what I had experienced could only now find a safe space to unfold.  What was frozen now began to thaw.  Your body and mind protects you and gives you healing in stages, when you are ready. I at times felt irrationally angry and exhausted.  holding the experience I was able to unravel and heal through movement, breathing and meditation on my mat.  I could make friends again with my changed body and my changed expectations for mortality.  I am for ever grateful to the years of yoga practice prior to this that gave me the skills and language to heal in this most integrated way.  It’s interesting to look back at a poem I wrote during this time I had a dream and I wrote a poem about it, about how the body tries to talk to the mind about what it experiences about hurt but also about healing.  We just have to create the space to listen.

Missing

it’s not missing I know where it’s gone
I was just sleeping on it’s exit

A part parted but still whole

It’s not my body that has changed but my soul’s framework
The rawness is a gift and a monster of mortality
I dreamt about my part
I dreamt and felt it’s weight separated
I saw the bin
I felt the weight in her hand as she lifted it to the steel vessel
In my waking I do not mourn it’s missing
And yet when I dream my body talks to my mind
It talks of being immobile
unconscious
My body tries to retell
Amputation
My visible missing a legacy of reminding

2017....

In praise of smaller lives.......

Is there pressure to become more in 2017?

New Perspectives on Detoxing- Reducing to find Authenticity.

What drives us? We wish each other happiness, health, prosperity and good fortune.  At this time of year we expand our attention into changing and improving.  In this shift, pause.  Pause towards a dialogue about authenticity.  There are moments of clarity that stand out when we feel right.  We feel true. Searching for meaning and gravity to our lives, value becomes equated with what is noticeable, communicable.  We create meaning to our lives in actions that are measurable, identifiable. How do we become more in touch with authenticity? How do we recognise these moments and collect them together to become a way of being?  If we were to reduce what gets in the way of experiencing authenticity, what would we discover about our relationships, our purpose, about feeling true. 


Should becomes being.  

Our culture has the potential to make us sick physically and mentally.  Value has been commodified and seriously misplaced.  The pursuit of the individual has created profound disconnection and loneliness.  Our framework of aspiration, of working for the  material,  disconnecting from nature and the commodification of  knowledge, has moved us away from listening to our authentic hearts.    It’s not that there is necessarily some profound talent that lies undiscovered but that we find authenticity; that we can swim in our own current, within the river of our culture. In our authentic currents we can support others, that following your authenticity is not an individual or self centred act, it has effect.  Currents and slip streams are created for others too that make it easier to swim against  and up stream from what makes us unwell.

Let us move away from being swept up in a singular view of detoxing that is about reducing the negative effects of diet and stimulants.

Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras detailed how Kleshas or misperceptions cause pain and suffering, that they move us away from our authentic selves. The 5 Kleshas are Avidya or ignorance, Asmita or ego, raga or attachments, Dvesa or avoidance and abinidvesa or fear. 

Our practice on the mat can work in a bifold way.  The practices themselves of ashtanga yoga; of movement, form, breathing and concentration facilitate clarity.  It changes our awareness and our identification with thoughts.  We are not our goals or our hopes or our fears. They create increments of perspective.  Integrating body, breath and mind.  It changes our ability to perceive and to find patterns of truth and authenticity in our lives and relationships.  The practice itself on the mat can be a microcosm of ego, fear, mis-perceptions and attachments to what we think or feel our practice should be to reflect our idea of our-self.  We journey through the Kleshas on our mat as well as off.  What do we need to reduce in our practice on the mat to find authenticity.  Where does our detox begin?