I made puppy birthday cupcakes for Gypsy because well….she is the most spoiled. I sat it down right in front of her and gave her the “OKAY!”
She inhaled the WHOLE thing in one swallow. EVEN the pepperoni on top! No sniffing, no chewing; just a single GULP.
I can’t help but be reminded that this is how many of us especially myself can want to practice asana in one fell swoop: Adding more, eyes on the destination, a satisfactory checkmark to complete. Yay! All done. I did my best to look like the picture and now it’s time for literally anything else. This is no different than swallowing a yoga cupcake.
It’s not “in vogue” to do a quarter kapotasana or a finishing backbend with the head on the ground. But that’s just it! To get the yoga, to become the best freaking listeners of all time to feel how the parts create the whole we have to go SO slow and respect each moment. Taking five minutes to do one suryanamaskara A instead of five breaths. Doing wayyy fewer movements to produce MORE awareness.
“Well if I just watch these videos of other people doing it then it will really help me!”
I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t look at videos because they can often be a helpful tool BUT it is not going to make you a better listener to what is going on inside YOU. I urge you to practice beyond the five breath limit and see what happens. Close your eyes if it helps.
Our mind LOVES moving fast. It has downloaded a photo of the pose and it doing it’s damnedest to get in and on out! On to the next one! Soon it will be over! I won’t have to listen anymore and I will continue to control all thoughts! MWHAHA! YOU CAN’T SLOW ME DOWN!
Allow for extravagantly long and elegant movements. It’s often in these moments that vulnerabilities are exposed and you’ll see what your mind tries to do get you to do so you don’t have to focus on that! Maybe you find yourself picking at your feet for a second. Maybe you usually go to the bathroom at this point. Maybe you stare despairingly out the window about all this things you have to do in an hour.
Who wants to stay where it requires physical work and hyper attention?! The mind sure doesn’t! It doesn’t like that you are exposing your weak spots and drawing attention to them. It’s labeled them unpleasant. Instead, we work to retrain our brain to not associate weak or vulnerable with BAD and scary. Try smiling at the sensations of wanting to get the hell outta there! Your mind-body patterns don’t get a chance to improve unless you teach them how to work better together. Give a rest to the powerful dominating muscles and let the smaller, tighter ones have a chance. So what if it doesn’t look like the pictures…those pictures aren’t you and they never will be. Brace for the slight changes in movement and revel in it.
We might not all get to turn off our minds completely. But how do we listen better? Imagining a line from the top of the head through the soft palate down through to the pelvic floor as you practice is one way. Focusing on full even, strain-free breathing is another. Keeping a soft gaze at one spot certainly helps. Learn to feel for each piece of a posture with all of your senses. Not just when you are in it but your entrance in and exit out of it. Not moving to the next one until you have tediously and lavishly maximized your focus. Search for all the parts and listen to what arises uniquely in you.
Listen and, for heaven’s sake, taste the peanut butter, carrots, honey, wheat flour and Pepperoni on top!