Thursday, September 4, 2014

Step Out Of The Box

I teach Power Vinyasa Yoga in Salt Lake City, Utah. When students come to my class, they can typically expect a good mix of breathwork coinciding with dymanic poses in a flowing sequence. Students feel challenged and appreciative of the experience when they leave after their Savasana meditation.

One day, however, I decided to give them something a little different. I had the intention of providing some similar aspects of my class (i.e. breathwork and dynamic poses). But instead of the continuous vinyasa flow, I encouraged students to hold postures. The challenge was to be in stillness with their pose and their breath. This became the mantra of the class: "Stillness And Breath."

As the class progressed after a series of Sun Salutations, the class experienced basic poses like Warrior Two or Bridge Pose in a new way. They were asked to hold these poses much longer than they had anticipated.

The mind can do some interesting things when you expect one thing, but get something else. I could guess that their brains were saying, "how long will I have to hold this; this is hard; I can't do this; I'm falling; my arms are getting tired, etc." While they held their poses, I simply repeated the mantra "Stillness And Breath."

Of course, the students were instructed to move into the next set of poses, only to find that they had to hold even more challenging postures like Chaturanga Dandasana and Warrior 3! More mind games!

So, what was in the intention of this? I wanted my students to experience the ability to step out of the box; to experience something that was out of the norm. They were also challenged to sit with their thoughts and become The Observer of their thoughts. Notice the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that rushed through them as they held the dynamic poses. When in stillnes and silence, sometimes we begin to add judgement to our surroundings and even to ourselves. Again, students were simply asked to Observe and Notice their thoughts and feelings WITHOUT judgement. They clearly had to step out of the box of normalcy to tap deeper within themselves.

I think this can be a good lesson for all of us. Can we be in stillness and quiet thought? And when judgement arises in our thinking, do we have the capacity to let them go without internalizing them or making them our Truth. When the mind is clear and quiet, Truth shines. Our True Selves emerge. The yoga practice can be that vehicle that allows us to move through those untruths, those judgements, those negative thoughts in order to approach Stillness And Breath.

The class ended differently, too. Instead of having the students finish in Savasana, we finished in a seated posture: sitting upright in a lotus position. Again, we sat in stillness in this asana. And if we recall the true meaning of asana, it means seat. I like to think of it as "can we sit in each of our poses and see our True Selves?" Can we be Present, Aware, and Connected in each of our yoga postures.

So, my challenge to you is to step out of your box. Try something new that allows you to see yourself in a new way. Perhaps from the experience, you'll achieve further growth and a deeper connnection to Yourself.

Step out of your box and register for a yoga retreat (hint hint)!