Movement & Self Enquiry with Lisa

I began my yoga journey with a long list of things I wanted to improve about myself. I wanted to feel happier, more peaceful, less stressed, more calm, less anxious, more flexible, the list went on…. I would diligently go to class 5 times per week, pushing my body to the extreme in the endless pursuit of the perfect pose, the perfect feeling of momentary peace.

I did experience moments of deep peace and calm, but they didn’t last and I found myself constantly reaching for the next ‘achievement’- perhaps a deeper forward fold, a longer headstand hold or a longer meditation, hoping that this would give me that deeper sense of connection and meaning that I was truly yearning for. It never did, and in fact I found myself often agitated and frustrated in my practice.

With the hindsight of over a decade of yoga practice, I see that in my early days of yoga (as in the first 9 years!) I was approaching it as way to construct a preferred state. That I somehow needed to be different than how I am. This led to years of pushing myself, berating myself, imposing movement on my body that didn’t feel nourishing, all in the hope that one day, someday, I would find what it was I was looking for.

That day never came.

Nowadays, I’m using my yoga as a practice of self enquiry, rather than self improvement. An investigation of what’s here in this moment now. It involves a willingness and openness to be with the physical sensations, thoughts and emotions, as they show up moment to moment in the practice. Self Inquiry begins from the starting point of enoughness- that who I am in this moment in enough. Not trying to make anything happen, not pushing. Moving the body from a place of awareness and allowance of what is. Moving in this way nourishes and heals the body. Flexibility and openness naturally happen because we’re not forcing and coercing.

Using the practice as a self enquiry often gives clarity and deep insight, as we’re not pushing an agenda or rigid idea of what needs to happen. We tend to feel a deeper sense of embodiment- an intimacy with what is here right now. A deeper feeling of aliveness and pleasure in the body, not just on the yoga mat but in all facets of life. The sweet warmth of sun on the skin, gentle blow of the wind, your breath caressing you from the inside out.

As a yoga and mindful movement teacher, I encourage my students to focus more on how the postures feel, rather than how they look.

I take the focus off the ‘end goal’ of achieving a certain posture and bring curiosity to sensations in the body, thoughts and emotions that may arise moment to moment during the practice. This shift in attention helps to release tension in the body and can bring more presence and vitality because we are no longer striving for something ‘out there’ but firmly rooted in the here and now. And ironically, when we are no longer pushing and forcing the body, but rather listening and then responding, the body naturally becomes stronger and more flexible.

So the next time you’re in a yoga class, I invite you to take your attention off whether you can touch your toes when you fold foreword and instead focus on the sensation of stretching the backs of the legs and feeling the spine and head dripping towards the earth. My experience is that this approach makes my yoga practice and life so much more enjoyable!

Lisa xx

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