I am practicing to a routine on Cody App. I always enjoy what the next generation of yogis are bringing to the practice. I love the “new school” moves and the creativity these Instagram stars bring to the table.
The warmups are vigorous right out of the start. We do what seems like a trillion chaturangas, plank with the knee and forehead touching, chaturanga to dolphin. I thought I was pretty fit by my arms are shaking.
“Wow, I must not be pushing myself a lot in my personal practice,” I think to myself “because this is damn hard.”
I love the challenge, I love getting strong and I love the heat it brings. At one point we hit a pose that is about stretching and not strengthening and we are told that is the way it works for this teacher. We must work hard and then earn a rest.
The thing is, when the time comes for poses that are emphasize stretching as opposed to conditioning my body for fitness, I find myself not as open and flexible as I normally am for these poses. It’s not that I haven’t been working. My muscles are warm, I’ve physically exerted myself and my sweatshirt came off long ago. I’m warm.
The thing is, I am just not “embodied” – with the fast pace and the performance-oriented practice I haven’t had time to let my mind penetrate my body and untie the knots from the inside out. Rather, the emphasis has been on the outer body movements of muscles and bones and perfecting the shapes of the asana.
I’ve been doing yoga but haven’t had time to feel the yoga. My mind is still trying to submit my body into a flexible and toned person, but it’s a one-way conversation. It’s a boss, rather than an equal participant in the process; it’s running a dictatorship of mind controlling my body rather than a democracy where the mind and body work together in synergy.
This approach is endemic to our modern culture and frankly a lot of the early yoga I was exposed to. Mind over matter and not mind within matter. It’s a feeling of control rather than harmony.
I’ve been writing about embodiment for our Blissology Teacher’s Training manual. I am committing this year to creating incredible teachers who can impact their communities through yoga, mindfulness and love; Our Bliss Army.
I have been thinking the whole time during the practice, “wow, I should get our Blissology Teachers together so we should all do this class as a group so I can point out the difference between doing and feeling yoga.”
Then it comes: the instructor says a phrase that explains exactly what I feel behind this approach:
During a long, two-minute hold of warrior two the instructor says in his sermon:
“Don’t let your body control your mind, let your mind control your body.”
It’s as if there is a battle between team body and team mind. The was the mind being a dictator and the body the subject, not a mind-body democracy.
I used to think and teach like this before it became clear what embodiment and specifically what “embodied peace” was.
The “Power Yoga” process was like this. Hold people in an impossibly long plank pose. As their arms were shaking and they were about to break, the soliloquy was:
“Life is full of hardships, there are going to be so many challenges we face in life; relationships, arguments, traffic…. The only thing we can control is our reactions to things so develop a resilient mind now.”
It seemed like good enough advice but the problem was it was a mental game that involved cutting off feedback from circuitry to the body and over-riding it with strength of my mind.
I’ve learned that a better way for me to deal with those scenarios is to use bodily sensations and not numb myself to them. For example, while holding plank pose, I would notice that my throat and jaw would tighten, my breath would constrict and become short and my butt would clench.
What I needed to do was to literally, relax the jaw, loosen the butt from clenching, and keep the breath L.S.D. (Long, Slow and Deep.) I could take the lid off of the pressure cooker and remain calm in a challenge not by cutting myself off of bodily feedback, but by using it to my advantage.
Suddenly even these hard poses became no sweat. Literally. I stopped sweating buckets when before I used to be one of those sweaty yoga guys nobody wanted to put their mats beside they were dripping bodily fluids onto their neighbor’s mats.
My physical toolbox of mind-body integration to maintain calmness under pressure became indispensable to me. The incredible thing is that this has huge implications for life: whether dropping into a scary wave on my surfboard, in a situation of confrontation, I can control my reactions physically and maintain my setting of calm and clarity.
I can use my body to find mental flow states. I can somatically self-regulate towards peace.
How about You?
- What works better for you:
- The path of control and submitting your body to your will?
Or do you try and work with your bodily feedback and treat your body like a friend?
- Are you doing yoga or feeling yoga?
- Are you motivated by war or kindness?
- Are you moving from a place of joy that needs to be expressed or is your motivation the approval of others?