February 2011


Not the obvious, but  suppose you were to bring nothing to your yoga practice – or, actually, no “thing.”   Might you be able to show up having examined what’s necessary for you to begin?  I’m wondering if you really need more than a willingness to participate fully…

Certainly, you bring experience, but while that may add to your level of confidence, it may have little to do with where you are in the moment that you are beginning your practice.   You may also bring knowledge, stored inside, from earlier yoga classes or studies – knowing the postures, pranayama, mudras, alignment and more.  My image of what you may bring could fill backpacks and suitcases and feels like way too much to bring with you.  Requires heavy lifting!  How to leave them aside so that you can show up as if this is the beginning – as if this is the first, the last or the only practice you are doing.  Just this one practice – right here, right now.

But there’s more!  You also bring your stories, in your mind and in your body.  Beliefs about yourself and also what they mean for what you can do or who you can be on your yoga mat.  These backpacks and suitcase can be heavier than the experiential ones, and we often carry them around with us for a lot longer than we even realize.  Of course, they may be true, or have been true at one time, or perhaps not really true but of service to our ability to move forward and negotiate the world.

I wonder how en-lightening it can be to set these things aside – welcoming new experiences and the possibility of different stories.  How would it be to discover what’s new for you (or what has always been there underneath the surface of the familiar stories, knowledge and experience).  Consider what you might want to take away and whether that means you may have to give up some of what you brought with you.  Might even lead to change…

An unusual perspective perhaps.   But consider that the boundaries of your yoga practice may be directly related to the edges of your yoga mat.  This is what I mean – there is the “you” that lives off the mat, and then there is the “you” that steps onto the mat.  Are they the same?   It may be that there are qualities that you carry with you that you leave behind when  you step onto your mat and begin your practice.  Or, perhaps, there are qualities that you are able to access on the mat that have a way of shifting out of sight when your practice is done and you step off the mat. Have you noticed how that might be?

Suppose you look at how yoga shows up in your day-to-day life.  Off the mat, I imagine the question of how you live your yoga might help identify how you are in life.  Consider how you maintain focus during the day, how you pay attention to your breath and what’s happening in your body as you move from one hour to the next.   Present moment awareness is often not so easy to access throughout the comings and goings of the day’s events.  So, how is it possible to do this during your yoga practice?

Ah, yes… the room is quiet, the demands of the day set aside, your phone and computer turned off.  You’ve made an appointment with yourself and a conscious decision to step onto your mat.   Sounds simple – but how to bring more of this kind of awareness with you when you step off?  It’s not the calm or the delicious feeling at the end of shavasana that I’m talking about; it’s more than that.  It may be the grounded sense that comes from being fully focused on the present moment as it is accessed through your body.  In other words, the authentic you that is paying attention to what’s happening now – not involved with what’s happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow.

Are these then qualities that can move off the mat with you and be there again before you step onto your mat?    I wonder how it might be to make spontaneous appointments with yourself and create this awareness throughout the day…

Sounds a bit wishy-washy, doesn’t it?  What would that even look like – to show up on your yoga mat with no expectations?  I admit that I don’t know.   I imagine that, even when you think you have none, there are some lurking underneath the surface.  I suspect that the real question to ask is,  “What is your relationship with those expectations?”

Do they rule you?  Or is it the other way round?  And, if you say neither, it can’t be true.  Expectations, by definition, set the stage for judgments to set up camp along every step of the way.  They open the door for evaluating what you do, comparing what’s happening now with what you expected.  Of course, there may be times when this attitude may well serve you.  Perhaps it helps move you forward.  And then, depending on how loud the judging voice is, it might just keep you in a stuck place or even send you down the rabbit hole.

What might it be like to interrupt the setting up of expectations, inserting awareness to bracket them as they arise?  No matter if they seem attainable and positive or if they are negative and drain your energy.    They are simply ideas that you have, albeit ones with the potential for becoming beliefs.

Awareness allows you to recognize them for what they are and proceed in a neutral way – keeping open to the moment or to the task-at-hand.  Like having a foot in the door, awareness lets expectations move through to another room, out of the way of what you are doing right now.   And if you wish to let them back in later, that’s okay.  Awareness can just keep them from getting in the way of you being absolutely fully present to this moment; right here, right now.

Got it?  And, of course, you know this isn’t just about how you show up for yoga…

Consider how you, or anyone else, arrives on his/her yoga mat?  What are the forces that enable the next step of unrolling the mat and showing up?  I suspect, of course, the answers to be many and varied, though at the core is there not an intention? And that intention would probably have something to do with supporting yourself.

Unlikely that you would show up hoping for some negative effect, however, I’m not certain that there needs to be a hoped-for effect at all.  There are so many reasons to practice yoga, from increasing flexibility to calming emotions, and  invitations abound as yoga increases in popularity among the general culture.  Often these reasons feel as if rooted in advertising and marketing – not that they are not valid – but what else might there be?

Returning to the idea of supporting yourself – how might that translate into everyday language?  It might have to do with improving or changing some aspect of your body or ability.  It could also mean creating space to check in with yourself on another level, meaning besides what’s evident in your day-to-day consciousness.    Perhaps just wanting to understand a bit more about what’s happening now with you and your body, and maybe noticing other aspects of your life that just might surface during this yoga practice.  So it could potentially be many desires that determine how you choose to meet your practice this time; and maybe it’s not a desire at all, but an interest in just being and exploring.

Whatever it is, beginning your yoga practice with intention seems like a way set a direction or determine an attitude – at least for the start of the practice.  It may morph into something else entirely by the time you are finished.  Deliberately setting an intention, or recognizing the one you have, is about a readiness to begin.  Actually you’ve already begun; you have just taken the next step…

This blog is offered in service to those involved in the giving, receiving, training and future of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy.  It is begun with the intention of keeping the door open to the essence of this work.

Take a moment to look again at the title:

YOGA – Many have some idea, but some may find themselves hanging on to only one limb, when there are, in fact, eight limbs of yoga available to support them.

THERAPY – An encounter with Wikipedia reveals the “attempted remediation of a health problem.”  Then “remediation” referred to “remedy” – defined as a “treatment that relieves or cures a disease.”  Consider what might be the dis-ease for which yoga may offer a relief or cure.  Leaving that for you to ponder…

EXPERIENCE – Well, it’s pretty much what’s happening now for you, isn’t it?  Or, in other words, it refers to all that you are taking in through your senses, your body, your emotions, your thoughts, and, perhaps, that sense of something beyond your immediate self – whatever that might be.  The point being that it’s bigger than what you hold in your mind or in some part of your body!

So…Has your curiosity been peaked?  If so, it’s worth remembering that one doesn’t need a diagnosis in order to benefit from Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy – unless “Curiosity” is a diagnosis.  Who knows, it may well be…