What does the next step in your yoga practice look like? Where do you feel called to take it, deepen it, even share it? Maybe it is tackling a more advanced class; perhaps you have been enjoying a Foundations class and are somewhat trepidatiously looking at Vinyasa class times. Maybe it is tackling a posture you have always held in a certain awe while wondering if you’ll ever be ready to look at it. Maybe it’s taking your practice deeper by taking a meditation course or maybe, the big maybe, you’ve been looking at immersing yourself in a teacher training course.
I’ll take a little detour, if I may...
This pose (the one in the picture)… I remember seeing it, all those years ago as a beginner, new to the world of yoga, and feeling smitten. There was something about the pose that without actually thinking, “I’ll have made it when I can do that pose”, I kind of thought that. I was a professional ballet dancer at the time, relatively early in my career but at a high degree of competency in and with my body already. I read in "Light on Yoga”, and, “Yoga the Iyengar Way”, though, that this was an advanced posture, so I wasn’t going to attempt it. Sure, I played with preparatory shapes which would start to set me up for it, but I knew that attempting the full shape was a long way off.
Fast forward all these years (about fourteen) and it’s a shape which I can get into and find some play in. I certainly wouldn’t say I have ‘mastered’ it, but then I wouldn’t say that I have mastered utthita trikonasana (triangle) either, if for no other reason than it being a strange concept. My body is different every single day, its needs different every single day and so honouring that looks different, every. single. day. A shape becomes a shape becomes a shape, a posture a means to honour the body and to inspire it to experience itself differently. (When it comes to asana, I love the quote, “Change your shape, change your state”. I believe it is attributable to Darren Rhodes, perhaps Anthony Robbins, perhaps both and maybe neither).
So when do you begin to approach that next step in your Yoga practice, whether it be vinyasa class, advanced asana, a meditation course or teacher training? Well for me, as with this pose, I only really began to play with advanced postures in the last couple of years. In the process, I surprised myself. Not only was I better able to grapple with the shapes than I would have expected, the journey they took me on was immense. I progressed quickly in the ability to work with more difficult shapes. Most importantly though, it improved both my relationship to more fundamental poses and to the overall health, integrity and comprehension of, and connection to, my body and breath. The latter I believe to be one of the most important outcomes of postural yoga.
For me, this leap was an act of audacity. For years, I held back from jumping in because it felt like saying, “I consider myself to be advanced”. There are so many beautiful parallels that we can draw between our life on the mat and the one that happens everywhere else. The saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything" springs to mind. Is standing up and saying you’re up to a task audacious, especially when you possess no real evidence to support the notion but a still small voice which urges you forward? YES! But is it needed? And how have you ever stepped up to a new level in anything without jumping in and swimming like crazy? I know that any meaningful shift, any movement towards mastery in my life has looked precisely that way.
Just like Hanuman, unaware that he was possessed of Godly capabilities, wishing he could help save countless lives, so are we. Hanuman’s dear friend, the great Jamabavan, turns to him and reminds him that he can make himself enormous (this, I believe, can readily be interpreted to symbolise our ability to become larger than any obstacle which faces us). He reminds him that he is well able to leap the ocean and bring back the herbs which will save the lives of his dearest friends and beloved Master. Furthermore, he lets him know that he is the one. He asks him, perhaps, as our dearest friends do, “If not you, then who?"
And so, the audacity of standing up and saying maybe, just maybe we will approach those postures, those practices, those endeavours which we deem far beyond us becomes practice for standing up in life to do the things we can which no other can, or in a way no other can. And we swim, we swim hard, and we grow. And for each of these acts, whether it be the mighty or simply to say, “I’ll begin to play with that next step. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to balance on my hands and touch my toes to the back of my head, but I’ll take that handstand workshop.”, or, " I’m not sure about ever standing at the front of the classroom and teaching, but I’ll register for teacher training and see where it may lead me.”, the world is made better.
You can read more about Marty Collyer in his teachers bio, or catch him on the mat in one of his inspiring and challenging weekly classes at Bulimba, Camp Hill or Wynnum. Marty is also a lead teacher in our upcoming, Live Your Bliss Yoga Teacher Training commencing in August and also runs regular workshops at Inna Bliss, which encourage, support and empower you to refine and deepen your practice. His next workshop, Foundations of Flow, focuses on helping you to find ease and seamless flow in the most fundamental moves and sequences of Vinyasa Yoga.