Remember that time I started writing this in January? lol. Happy March! The winter months have me relying more and more on my home practice and less on studio yoga classes. And it’s got me pondering how so much of my movement comes from outside stimulus.
I need a cup for coffee and I reach for it. I recoil from the possibility of a mouse (the is a very real thing in my home. I’m glad my cat catches them, but less glad that he thinks they are gifts to be brought to the bed in the middle of the night ..). I go through the motions of putting on boots, coat, hat, scarf because it’s friggin’ cold outside. Especially in the winter it can feel like movement is all about survival.
So the other day I thought about it–when do I move from internal stimulus? Not never. It’s when I see someone I love and the warm bubbly feeling from inside leads me to wrap them up. When I reach for something not for its utility, but because I want to examine it more closely out of interest, like the flowers I got for Valentine’s Day or a crystal I’m drawn to. It’s the unconscious stretch at my desk that turns into a mini-session of seated side stretches and or the kind of desire we don’t talk about in polite company. 😉
Yoga, the physical asana, certainly that must be a time for internally motivated movement. And yet, even as someone who teaches yoga, much of my own practice happens in the context of another teacher’s instruction. And, for the record, I LOVE so many of my teachers. They help me explore parts of myself that I may shy away from without a nudge. They make me laugh, they encourage me to go deeper. But. And. Also. If yoga is about (or can be about) moving energy in the body and discovering/transforming areas of stagnation then we owe it to ourselves to do more than respond to an instructor’s cues as outside stimulus.
I was laying in bed the other day thinking about this and an image came to me of checking in to my body as one would check into a hotel. It’s an image that’s been working for me both as a starting point for self-guided practice and as a reminder to follow myself first in the context of a guided class.
Perhaps it’s worth exploring for you too.
As you find a comfortable seat, begin to tune into your breath. Take 5-10 deep breathes as you quiet your mind. Imagine bits of your awareness, of your self, swirling around outside your body. Perhaps as you imagine these bits of yourself they inch closer to your physical body. Sometimes I even notice that bits of myself come in from the other room where I’ve been working or from other places I’ve visited. Now imagine all those parts of yourself “checking in” to your body. Not checking in like a doctor’s check up where you just see what’s up and then leave, but checking in like a hotel. With fresh sheets. You’re here. Breathe. Be. Notice if or how your breathe shifts in quantity or quality. Notice if specific parts of your body light up physically or energetically. Take 15-20 breaths here before you begin your physical practice.