New Year

Dear friends and students of yoga,

Happy New Year! May 2012 bring you abundant opportunity for exploration and new discoveries.

Yesterday, during my last yoga practice of the year, I was inspired by something my teacher Carrie shared in class. We were playing with the rope wall to create traction on the back thigh in trikonasana. A rope positioned at a higher point on the wall provided a different sense of direction than a rope placed at a lower point. A short rope gave a different sense of support than a long rope. Essentially, the angle and length of the rope changed the experience of the pose. The rope did this for us, so that we were able to let go of the doing and simply receive, observe the feedback provided by the prop.

When the body receives this kind of feedback, we build muscular memory. With consistant and conscious practice of asana, the intelligence imbedded in our cells overrides the need for everything to be filtered through the mind. This morning as I revisited trikonasana without the rope wall, I challenged myself to let go of the mental dialogue -- the front big toe, revolving thigh, side waist... blahdy-blah-blah. My body knows the pose like riding a bike. Trusting the intelligence of the body makes space in the mind for direct perception of the experience. Free from the mental list of what should be, we can more clearly see what is and move from there.

I invite you to try this while holding a familiar pose for 30 seconds to a minute -- notice how much mental dialogue exists. Are your thoughts centered around your alignment in the pose, sensations in the body, the breath? Are there other unexpected topics (most likely) that find their way into your mental landscape? Challenge yourself to observe these thoughts without pursuing them. And when you find yourself imposing some mental to do list on a simple asana, ask yourself, "Is it meaningful or just extraneous words?" As B.K.S. Iyengar writes in Light on Life, "Let the body be the doer, the brain the observer."

All best wishes for the New Year,

Caitlin

My holiday paradise - Playa Del Rey Beach, Los Angeles