To teach and sense as a yoga teacher requires a relaxed concentration. A kind of go with the flow intuition, while maintaining a sharp awareness of constant somatic feedback from the group. Feelings in the room rise and fall. The emotional climate is always changing yet supported by the security of mindfulness.
Beneath the obvious asanas and pranayamas shines individual experiences. I remind the class to ‘make the practice your own’, reassuring them that their efforts, as far as they go, are always good enough for me.
Here is Beth’s expression of a Mindfulness Yoga experience:
My yoga instructor is supple and serene. When she speaks, my focus comes back to the room. We are set in warrior pose, Virabhadrasana, feet wide apart, arms outstretched, parallel to the floor; turn your head and gaze at the palm of your upturned hand. Imagine your life’s greatest obstacle sitting in the palm of your hand.
What is my life’s greatest obstacle? Well, of course, it is fear.
I was three years of age, the eldest of three children. We were living in Woomera, when my mother fell into a black abyss of depression. Her condition was made worse by treatments and medications, commonly used by specialists at that time. Our father drank to dull his pain. My siblings and I were pushed around to reluctant relatives and frightening foster homes. Anxiety and fear still dog my days.
We all survived, except dad. I developed the sturdy legs of self-reliance and independence, useful for mountain pose, Tadasana. Feel the lifting energy with each inhalation. Soften the shoulders. Let the head and neck float. I need to raise my gaze and be fearless.
Memories of Great Aunty Vi float into view. Aunty Vi taught yoga until she was well into her 70s, kept a beautiful garden, sewed her own clothes and hiked all over Sydney and surrounding regions. Devastating heartbreak did not stop Aunty Vi; a fall in the backyard snatched her life force. She is now in a secure facility, oblivious to her own name and those of her family. I surrender in child’s pose, Balsana, paying silent homage to Aunty Vi.
‘Be playful’ my instructor chortles, as she balances on one leg, in hand to foot pose. I topple. Playful is not in my repertoire. I missed that part of my childhood. Happy baby pose? No chance. My instructor laughs and gives a winning smile. She is sitting on her tailbone with both legs stretched upwards, holding her toes. Make the practice your own. I close my eyes and sit cross-legged in Sukhasana, waiting.
Eagle pose is more me. In Garudasana you balance on one foot, while everything else is in a tangle. This pose develops concentration and releases tight shoulders. I also enjoy twisting; seeing things from a different angle. Stretch out like a starfish, lift one arm and turn your head to look behind. You can feel childlike happiness. I am working on that one.
A restorative inversion, Sarvangasana, will seal life’s energy in your body. Your confidence will increase and the brain will calm. I try.
To end the session, Savasana, corpse pose. Lay on the floor, centre yourself and draw the senses inwards. Complete stillness is required. Feel the breath and repeat the mantra, Soham, in honour of the divine within.
As you slowly reawaken, feel revitalised and perhaps you are now ready to face down your fear.
What are your challenges? It may be anxiety and depression, pain, chronic fatigue or stress. Or you may simply want to create a flexible body and mind. To start your wellbeing journey towards increased self-care and awareness I invite you to come along to my Mindfulness Yoga classes in Canberra.