Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nature Abhors the Square -- Bringing Nature To Our Mat

If you take a walk outside rarely will you find plants, shrubs, and trees growing at exact 90 degree angles. Most plants make soft angles toward the sun or down toward a water source. There are a few strange plants whose roots grow at 90 degrees (like werewolf root) but they are seen to exist outside the normal laws of nature and contain abnormal personalities and shocking medicinal powers (I will talk more about this in my Plant Teaching Thursday post). My favorite buildings are those with arches, steeples, and buttresses and my favorite yoga postures contain soft edges and rounded lines. 

I was just looking at some old photographs of Krishnamacharya doing yoga asanas and I was sweetly surprised to see that many of his postures also contain soft shapes. As a founding father of yoga, Krishnamacharya was the primary teacher of Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi, and his son, DKV Desikachar. I was expecting to see many right angles and stiff wrists but this was not the case. Instead I saw many photos of a smiling man, with his feet at 60 degrees, his wrist angled upward like a leaf, opening his body, mind, and heart. 

In my own yoga practice I enjoy finding small pulsations, little eddies and tidal pools to play in. My feet rarely land in the right place and sometimes I'll go deeper into a pose by changing my alignment. Some days I'll find myself rolling my wrists, shifting my hips, and moving my rib cage back and forth. This is not a pulsation like a scripted flow, but rather a subtle undulation like a plant being moved by its inner fluids and reorganizing its position so it can experience more of itself. 

My early years of yoga practice found me in many alignment based studios with teachers who had the answers and the exact angles for where my body should be. I had the books which contained pictures of the "perfect pose" and I would study myself in the mirror trying to achieve these precise angles. While I learned a lot in these classes I always felt like something was missing. In those days I was a perfectionist and these scripted classes fed by obsession with obtaining the perfect body and the perfect pose.


These days the way I practice has become a lot softer and as a result, so has my teaching. I am less concerned with my students bringing their knee "directly" over their ankle and I am learning to trust the wisdom inherent in each of our bodies. I smile when I see a student's arms expressing their heart in angles of 30 and 60 degrees. It brings me joy to see the slight curves in a student's spine and to watch them find their footing in a way that makes them feel grounded.

In a world with so many hard lines, sharp angles, and right ways, our yoga practice can be a place where we soften, bend, flow, and breathe in accordance with the laws of nature. And not just the nature that lives outside our walls, but in accordance with the nature that lives inside us every moment we are here.

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1 comment:

Rick Kowalewski said...

Beautiful, subtle observations, Ashley.