Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 19 August 2013

Twisting By the Pool: Lessons from a Weekend Yoga Teacher Training Session

We moved the second day of this weekend's intensive yoga teacher training outside, to someone’s home, because of the heat and humidity. Yesterday was a day of “awareness of body, mind and spirit” under the sky. What a wonder to look up and watch the changing clouds, the variety of birds circling overhead and, yes, even the hornets buzzing around us, investigating why 18 people were stretched out on the driveway pavement and whether or not it was a good idea to taste them!  (By the way, I learned that it is indeed possible to get an impressive sunburn despite taking all precautions and staying in the shade.)

Even better was how well the theme fit the location; we focused on Restorative Yoga for the entire practice. People often assume that a Restorative Practice is simple, easy and doesn't involve much effort.  While the asana are fairly simple when compared to other Hatha Yoga asana, and while Restorative Yoga places much emphasis on relaxation, like anything else in yoga, meditation (and, yes, fibre work), each pose requires concentration, diligence, attention to detail and strength in spirit and body.

The best comparison I know in knitting would be garter stitch, the most basic pattern, all knit, all the time, so simple that anyone can do it, the first stitch pattern taught.  Just ask a knitter how difficult it can be to make an attractive, even garter stitch fabric or give someone who knits complex patterns the challenge of knitting a garter stitch garment that works to exact gauge.  A similar comparison can be found in spinning.  Most beginning spinners spin thick yarns and move into finer yarns with practice.  In my intermediate and advance classes, I often challenge spinners to spin a structurally sound, bulky yarn which doesn't feel like rope. Almost all experienced spinners I know find the return to what is often viewed as "easy" yarn to be far more difficult than they expected.

It requires dedicated effort to stay in beginners' mind, to remember what it was like before we were aware of how our shoulders move, how this muscle interacts with that joint, how hard it is to simply learn to "feel" again.  I have to remind myself of those first steps every time I step into a Renew class, despite the fact that I've had a few physical and emotional challenges in my life (as do we all).  It works this way with fibre arts students; I can't assume that beginning knitters know how to make a slip knot, let alone have any idea of what a knit stitch might look like, nor can I expect new spinners to know the difference between wool and alpaca.

I believe that every yoga practitioner should incorporate a Restorative component to her practice, just as I think that experienced knitters would do well to play with garter stitch and spinners should hone their skills making bulky, lofty yarns.  The thing is that, while we often think of such basic skills as, well, basic, it requires constant, dedicated attention to do any of them mindfully. Simplicity brings us back to the subtle, in movement and mind.  Like all good practice, it shifts our perspective and challenges our assumptions.

(Thanks to Lynn for hosting Day 2 of Yoga Teacher Training!)

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