As I navigate my way through Week 2 of Yoga Teacher Training, it feels a lot like I’m walking through my house in the dark.
Walking blindly through a space I know well from having lived in it for years, it seems to change shape. In the dark I can’t walk quickly unless I want to bump into things.
So I walk slowly. I feel with my hands the smooth wall, the ridge where a mirror juts out, and anticipate the drop-off where the wall ends. Between the walls I blindly walk through dark, empty space, trusting my instinct and my familiarity to guide me to the next wall.
It’s the same with this learning process. This relearning process I should say. In order to stay truly open and learn fully, I’ve turned off the light of what I think I know. Now I must feel my way through new concepts, old concepts, and have an altogether new experience of yoga.
Breath, Meet Bones
One interesting aspect we’ve been spending a lot of time on is the breath. Ujjayi breathing, different kinds of diaphragmatic breathing, and pranayama practices.
We all know the breath is a big part of yoga. We hear it in class all the time, and we can probably turn on our breath at will.
But letting the breath lead the body, this has become my practice.
Sure, I can keep up with a vigorous vinyasa class. Yes, I can make my breath loud enough for my neighbor to hear. And I routinely write on the importance of breathing.
But when I tried to actually let my breath (instead of my mind or body) lead me through every single pose of a simple flow class, I struggled.
I would be halfway into the pose and then begin my exhale.
This is the first step of yoga, linking breath with body. Since I don’t always do this, I came to the realization that, to my surprise, in much of my practice I haven’t really been doing yoga.
This revelation my mind calls “interesting,” because I don’t know what else to call it. I know it isn’t good or bad. It is just a process of rebuilding a stronger foundation, of reviewing what I think I know, of revisiting the home of my body in the dark, feeling my way around my breath and my bones and introducing them to each other.
Breath, meet bones. I thought you’d have met by now.
This breath-leads-body concept parallels interestingly with the bigger picture of the training. With so much mental focus and thinking, physical practice, and interaction required, it feels like a real-life vinyasa flow. Meaning you only get through it if you take one breath at a time, one step at a time.
If I let my head lead in this process of learning, I will become unbalanced. If I let my body lead, pushing it too hard, I will become unbalanced.
It is only by staying present and focused on what’s right in front of me that I will stay in sync, maintain balance, and enjoy the amazing process I’m involved in.
Although on the surface we are covering many nuts-and-bolts of yoga asana and philosophy, under the surface there is a refining going on. I think this is true for all of us in the class.
I’ve begun to treasure restorative yoga and the powers of resting, finding in it a wonderfully complementary and rejuvinating counterpart to intense flow practices.
As the new moon peaks today, its astral process seems to parallel mine. An erasing of what is visible, of what appears to be clear, of an obvious guiding light. A returning to the source, a deep introspection, an unlayering, a finding of an internal sense of balance, and a learning to see in the dark.