“I feel I don’t need to do regular self-practice at the moment” a student was telling me recently. “I think I try to stay mindful and follow my breathing as much as I can. I try to be attuned to what’s going on. I do massively believe in Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘you have always been running, but you have never arrived’; i.e. the biggest challenge is to sit with your reality / truth, however painful. I stopped practising yoga every day because I didn’t want to do it any more. It seems to mean that I don’t smooth myself out as much as I had been doing, and living with my more turbulent feelings feels life-giving just now.”
I admire my student’s integrity and the extent of his self-awareness. A fundamental prioritisation of authenticity are my ‘take’ on what he is saying. In my own yoga practice there are times when it seems I’m just going through the motions and not really in touch with what I feel, or need. In my case, I don’t stop my daily practice though (I’m a yoga teacher right?!) however I have some tactics to become more self-congruent. The study of Authentic Movement probably informs my practice more than I’m really even aware. This involves moving from inner impetus and results in a practice where I often leave the mat – move around the room, roll around on the floor, make sounds and see what arises. Like my student, I’m aware of the need to smooth myself out but I don’t feel I can manage without trying to do it. I often have in mind the words of Mary Oliver: ‘You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves’, from her poem Wild Geese.
My teaching is informed by what I practise, so my students probably get to do more flowing movements and stuff off the mat than in a typical yoga class. Some of these movements appear in the video below:
I’ve also written about these movements in some of my previous blogs, so if you feel your self-practice has become a bit stuck, formulaic and mechanical, here are some ideas to get you started on ‘loving the soft animal of your body’ again! Use the moves to enliven your practice and help you become more true to your own needs.
- The Seaweed Game – a partner exploration in fluid movement
- Spirals – rolling on the floor with initiation from the peripheries of upper limbs or lower limbs
- Playfulness – sometimes allowing more of this quality in yoga practice can help shift things in our lives
- Moving from centre – exploring navel radiation pattern
- Janis roll and Starfish – fluid and fun ways towards core support
Well, what about the student I quoted at the start of this blog? I’m going to suggest he finds an Authentic Movement group and begins learning the AM form!
Happy practising everyone!