Yesterday I ended up practicing in my living room with my husband asleep on the couch and baby in her bed (it was exceptionally early in the morning for a Sunday). I decided, having been inspired by Baron’s dvdon Saturday to do my David Swenson dvd. For those of you who don’t know, David Swenson practices Ashtanga Yoga and this particular dvd was the Primary Series. Like I described before, the primary series was my first devoted practice of yoga so I always feel when I’m doing it that I’m coming home.
There are many things that I deeply appreciate about this dvd. The one thing that really stuck with me was David’s statement “be responsible for your practice.” That is so profound to me. We can often practice from a place of ego and the ego believes “the deeper I go the better I do.” I refer to this as the fallacy of the ego. It is simply not true in a yoga practice, we need to put the integrity of the pose before the mind’s desire to be the best in the room, qualifying best in the room by who goes the furthest in a posture.
I believe that postures get more difficult for two reasons. The first is because we are all in different bodies and in order for some of us to reach the same level of physical challenge and breath concentration, we need to be challenged differently. The individual in a forward fold who is touching their knees can be working as hard as the person touching their toes, its about where your mind is at.
Going deeper in a pose before you are ready signs you up for injury and means that you are following the mind rather than the body. The breath will never betray you and if you follow the breath into a pose, maintain and honour that breath, you will always be working within your physical limitations. This doesn’t mean that its okay to get complacent. You need to be working to a place in the body where you are ‘playing an edge.’ This is when the pose is challenging enough to keep your mind on the breath and on the sensation in the body without letting it dawdle off to consider all your yesterdays and tomorrows.
The second reason I think poses get more challenging is for the cleansing aspect of the asana. We don’t often consider that one of the traditional and primary intentions for a yoga practice is to rid the body of toxins so that we may sit comfortably in meditation and deep concentration. It is believed that it is the toxicity of the body is in part what keeps us feeling restricted.
The last reason I found this statement so profound was because as a teacher, I am trying to teach students this all the time. I can’t make you show up on the mat, only you can call yourself to do that. I am simply there as a guide with a set of offerings. I create a container for your experience but you are the one that does the work. Then there is the beauty that is created of us all working together. Regardless of who is leading your class, the yoga is yours. I know this powerful statement has reminded me that I need to be in integrity both on and off my mat.