Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

ABC/Poetry in Motion: Building a Practice

Yoga teacher training this weekend was all about the alphabet.  Saturday focused on anatomy, the foundation of sound, safe asana practice.  (I missed the session, for reasons which couldn't be avoided; sometimes the body will not do what the mind wants.)  On Sunday, we turned our attention to sequencing poses and began working on pranayama.  

Understanding anatomy in yoga is similar to learning the basic stitches in knitting. Although human anatomy is far more complex and intricate than the foundations of knit and purl stitches, when we master the basics of either, we can develop a feel for what the body or the fabric requires.  Learning the ABC's of anything helps us to ensure that what we do is structurally sound.

One of the things which stayed with me from Sunday was Colin's statement that Iyengar yoga is difficult to sequence because it provides you with the alphabet and expects you to create poetry.  Other styles of yoga range from rigidly scripted to "do what feels good." Each has its charms.  Just as some people love a well-structured sentence in a detailed work of non-fiction or the complexity of a lace knitting chart and others prefer spoken word performances at open mic sessions, every yoga practitioner will be drawn to a certain practice (which, by the way, may not be the practice you need). 

The equivalent to poetry for me is free-form knitting, in which one picks up needles, yarn and sets off, without a plan or a goal, other than to work with string and see what happens. Most of the time, the work is flawed (especially if you follow the rule of no frogging). Sometimes it's a total disaster.  Once in a while, you get a fine piece of fabric.  Best of all, whatever you produce is a "one off; " since you don't keep records and rely on intuition, the work becomes a "string poem," never to be duplicated.  Like good poetry, it captures the essence of its materials (in word or yarn) in specific moments of inspiration.

The current free-form work in progress, in various hand spun yarns, with its source of inspiration.  Right now,  the piece is headed towards disaster, but I'm not ready to declare defeat.  

None of these things-poetry, free-form fabric or a well-balanced yoga practice-comes easily. Each requires study, effort, practise, practise and more practise, all of it punched up with a good measure of frustration. We can also be inspired by the work of others-for me this includesWilliam Butler Yeats's poetry, Mizzie Morawez's fibre art and this little book, which I found in Kelowna: Awakening the Spine by Vanda Scaravelli. It's a blend of story telling, photography and personal yoga practice, a fine illustration of how one's yoga practice can move beyond asana into poetry, a blend of body, breath and life force taken to a level of art.

We must know the rules in order to break the rules-get it right and our work will flow. Our energy will be directed to suit our needs.  We may never achieve a practice that is acknowledged as "art," but with effort, focus and stillness will come.  Best of all, we will have the pleasure of the journey.  And that will be the finest poetry of all.


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