Are you deeply connected to your yoga practice? As a student, are you aware of your personal relationship with yoga? As a teacher, do you truly empower your students to practice in their own way?
While I was at the International Yoga Festival, I was graced by the chance to experience yoga led by Neal Ghoshal. As we flowed through his class “from the navel out” there was one part that resonated with me. Neal was talking about the authenticity of your yoga practice. As a teacher of nia, I likened this to the nia concept of Your Body’s Way – your unique way of moving.
Like nia, yoga is a personal practice. But how personal is it to you? Do you practice with a sense of connection and direction from your own inner compass? Are you being truly mindful and authentic?
The lack of authenticity results from the lack mindfulness of the body (or “out-of-body experiences” as I like to call them). I’ve noticed them exist in two categories: The first one is the ‘follow-the-leader’ syndrome, which relates to ‘indoctrinated’ movement. As a Nia teacher I am aware of the influence I have on my students, but continue to be stunned at how much so. After a recent injury I led a class with relatively low energy and contained mobility. And I noticed that despite being asked to “move in your body’s way” the students were performing like I was! In yoga, I often see a similar thing – students doing poses based on what they are being or have been taught. The body is placed according to indoctrinated ideas, rather than from an awareness of the body in the present moment.
The other experience I see is the ‘do-what-I-did-last-time’ (or better) practice. Often I am aware of students who try to practice at the same level or push themselves higher, each day. Again, this creates a practice that lacks mindfulness and authenticity. What we are capable of one day may not be true for the next.
These two “out-of-body” experiences are to me, grave errors in any practice. Physically, when we aren’t being mindful of our own body’s needs and wants, we risk injury, stress and chronic fatigue. Mentally, we are being led by thoughts from the past, rather than an awareness of self in the now. Spiritually, we are diminishing our own light by being unaware and suppressing our authentic selves.
So, next time you step onto your mat, I invite you to tune into your body. Avoid the temptation to “just be led” or to “follow the routine”. Sense, where your body would like to go in that present moment. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your asanas. Have a play! Go wider, go deeper, come higher, reach less, reach more –see what works and feels right for you. When we are aware, we know that what is needed to nourish our body, changes day-to-day, even moment-to-moment.