use your illusion

Posted by on Sep 28, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on use your illusion

use your illusion

Last night I was involved in this wonderful live movement event at Spirit Loft, one of the great community studios I’m fortunate to be a part of.  A few of the instructors at the studio got together and we took turns moving through our own styles of practice while it was filmed and streamed live down to the corner of Queen and Carlaw where it was projected with sound onto the wall of a church.  It was a great idea to bring the studio to the street, to let people see the inside from the outside, to get a glimpse of the movement possibilities offered in our yoga classes.

I was excited to be asked to take part, but for me it was also a huge challenge and a step into new territory.  When I’m demonstrating a pose or sequence in front of the class, students are in their own practices, only glancing up for reinforcement.  I’ve never practiced a series in front of a group, and I’ve definitely never been filmed practicing.  To say I was nervous was an understatement.  As I took to the mat and the music began, I tried my best to focus on the breath and allow the rest to come as I had rehearsed.  There were two problems with my approach to the evening: 1) I changed my routine last minute, deciding I needed some deeper backbend moments before reaching my peak pose, and 2) I hadn’t practiced my transitions into and out of it beforehand and I had underestimated how distracted my mind was going to feel under the pressure of a live broadcast.  I had a moment in my segment where I had turned my vasisthasana backbend “wild thing” into urdhva danurasana (when I normally transition to here from a “flipped dog”- very different set-ups for hands and feet) when my mind went blank and I was upside down trying to remember what to do with my hands to come back out.  I took a guess and moved and fumbled and was humbled.

I’m going to admit that for a long time I’ve been feeling really good in my practice.  I feel confident and strong on my mat.  This experience was an eye-opener and shed some light on my weaknesses.  When I practice, I’m moving in my own body from a place of feeling. And when I’m a student in a flow class, my body is usually moving too quickly to get any real solid feedback or adjustments from other instructors.  Last night, upon reviewing the footage of the event, I was able to see my practice from the outside, with my teacher’s eye.  I’m a fidgeter.  I have an impatient downward dog.  I have a shallow breath (much too shallow for this stage in my practice).  I sometimes bite off more than I can chew so to speak, moving too quickly into places my body is still unlocking.  My urdhva danurasana, for example, looks nothing like I imagine it does.  In practice, I feel radiant and open, a perfect arc like a rainbow;  in reality it is sharp and harsh and angular.  And so on.

I also had the opportunity to see first hand the creative movements of my peers, my coworkers.  I was so amazed by the displays of grace and strength as transmitted through so many different bodies and in so many different ways.  I see in their practices places I want to be, shapes I want to be able to create, stability, courage, steadiness, tenderness.  And I realize that an important shift has taken place in my perspective.

Sometimes in my “teacher” mind I find myself in a place where even if I am taking part in a class, I feel like I’m on the expert’s side.  Last night I was reminded of what it is to be deep inside the belly of the bell curve.  I’m not saying that I lack strength or flexibility or that my practice is a mess- I’ve come a long way over the years.  But I know that even though I step on the instructor’s mat, I’m sharing from a place still so deeply imbedded in the context of my own learning.  I am a student, I still have so much to learn and have so many places to strengthen and develop that it can be kind of overwhelming.  I am reminded of what it felt like to walk into that first Ashtanga class, a mix of inferiority and wonderment.  I remember what it felt like to join in a Shiva Rea class and be asked to move like water when I was all concrete.  When you come to class and you’re asked to shift into places that haven’t burned their grooves deep into your cellular understanding and you feel like there’s nowhere to go but up, I get it.  I get that feeling.  I haven’t felt it in a long time, but damn, having the opportunity to see where I really am rather than where I thought I was is a kick in the butt.  But it’s not discouraging, it makes me want to get back on the mat and try harder.

Try filming yourself in practice- see if there’s a disjuncture between the yoga you imagine yourself doing and the yoga as it is really playing out on your mat.  I can almost guarantee that there will be something you could learn about yourself from the exercise.  And learning is the point.  Here is where I have to remember what I teach.  The process is the practice.

Process.  Practice.

All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.