I signed up for an Intermediate Power Yoga Workshop last Sunday. Lately my Level 1 Power Yoga classes seem a little easy. I know I'm not all that strong, especially when it comes to core-power, but I thought perhaps I should be looking at challenging myself more.
The workshop was fun. There was a lot of arm balances that elude me at the moment. The lack of success is not bothering me yet.
F. reminds us to just go one step at a time. The spirit of "Evolution," he calls it. Keep showing up, keep building the strength, and remember that your practice will be different each and every day. Some days will be better than others.
I just need to keep reminding myself. Oh, and make sure my ego stays outside the yoga studio during practice.
In the theory part of the workshop, F. outlined the five basic principles to advancing our yoga practice:
Breath and Heat
The principle behind the Breath was explained to me in the past during my usual Ashtanga and Power Yoga practice. In both Ashtanga and Power Yoga classes we practice Ujjayi (Victorious Breath) and it provides the long, even, heating breath needed to maintain the poses. The heating quality in Ujjayi also helps in softening the body to make it more pliable in deep stretches. And it also helps focus our mind back to the breath, where the meditation in yoga begins.
The Gaze, The Drishti
F. calls the drishti the "finishing touch to a pose." The drishti is a point of focus where the gaze rests during asana. It is supposed to aid concentration. Each yoga pose has a specific drishti, which also aids in alignment. It is more than just staring at a spot though. It is also a state of mind.
According to F. he could never get Bakasana (Crane or Crow Pose) until someone literally smacked him on his head about getting his drishti wrong. He could never take flight in Bakasana because he was looking down, instead of forward - as the drishti should be. When we look down in Bakasana, the energy and the focus also goes down. Result? We fall flat on our faces.
When we attempted an assisted Handstand during class, I did feel a difference in the alignment of my body when I shifted my drishti. It was just a subtle change - to look in the space between my hands instead of the wall behind, and the legs and the torso seem to just feel stronger, straighter.
Each pose should build on each other, to open and stretch the relevant parts of the body so that we can come to the advance poses better. Foundation poses like Triangle, Half-Moon and Lunges all serve their purposes as building blocks to more advance asanas.
The source of support and power in yoga. I need to work on my core more if I want to advance in the asana. No question about it. But oh, how I hate the core exercises.
From here on, I have to decide how to proceed with my practice. I can continue staying at Level 1 classes, no problem. There are still things to learn, and I can try to keep building strength until I am ready. But staying at Level 1 also means holding myself back. I am comfortable with Level 1, and that is no excuse for resting on my laurels.
Yoga teacher Donna Farhi wrote:
When we give up in the face of challenge, we cheat ourselves of the immense satisfaction that follows from building any skill to fruition. The trouble is that we can't know, in the beginning, just how good we're going to feel when our gross fumblings and awkward failures slowly transform into mastery. We might have an inkling, but we don't really know that working through our ineptitude will open us up to immense rewards. All we know in the moment is that what we're doing is really hard.
Yoga taught me the possibility of transformation. The least I can do to honour the practice is to explore this possibility to its limits. That means challenging myself. I am going to have to start showing up for some Level 2 classes. It's going to be difficult. I'm going to feel like a baby chick among the more advanced students.
Oh, my ego is going to take major beatings.