Friday, July 11, 2014

Silent Practice

This week I woke up with a dolphin squeak of a voice that rapidly turned into some sort of monster parody, which eventually forced my sister to ask me to stop speaking in front of her children for fear of giving them nightmares.

It seems to be laryngitis.  That is something I have never had before.

A few interesting things happen when you cannot speak.  Well, they happened to me and I found them interesting.

First, I realised that I could forget I had lost my voice because I was still chattering away inside my head.  It was very noisy in there.

Second, sometimes if you don't speak, people will just ignore you.  That's particularly frustrating when you feel like you have a lot of interesting things to say.

Third, sort of an extension of the second, I realised how language helps us feel connected to other people.  There were several incidents I found terribly amusing but found I couldn't share them as they were too hard to mime and I did not have a pen and paper.  Because I couldn't share them, they somehow didn't seem as funny.

Fourth, I also realised that you don't need to speak to share things.  It just makes it easier.  Charlie (the dog) and I have 'meaningful' (to me) cuddles and we don't say a word.  Lots of kids I worked with in Sri Lanka could not speak at all due to disability but we played and had lots of fun together.

Fifth, I realised that I am a very good yoga mime and sometimes people in classes do better when I just show and don't tell.

Here I will just insert an amusing anecdote on the subject of miming.  It has a loose relationship to yoga.

A friend organised a yoga retreat for me at a hotel in Sri Lanka.  She was German and ran a business for a particular subset of rotund German tourists who seemed to spend a lot of time swanning around in small, tight swimwear no matter the venue, and who relied on her to sort out even minor issues in their travel itinerary.

"My God, these people!" she exclaimed after a particularly challenging day of incessant visits from her speedo wearing countrymen.

"You think they cannot get dressed a little decently in the lobby?  No, instead, I have to sit at the desk with some man's crotch at eye-level and sort out their toilet paper for them!"

"Really!" she went on, not yet finished.  "Surely it is not that difficult to communicate you need more toilet paper.  You don't need language to do that!"

And right there she jumped up and began to mime wiping her backside, taking her had to an imaginary wall with an imaginary toilet roll holder and pointing at her hand and raising her eyebrows to show the surprise that there was no toilet paper.  It was very funny at the time.

But all this brings me to the matter of showing rather than telling and leading a yoga class in silence.

As though to pre-empt my laryngitis last week I, when I still had a voice, I got to a particularly tricky pose in the sequence (eka pada koundinyasa I).

"I am not going to give you verbal instructions here," I announced.  "Just watch me.  I will show you what to do."

And so I broke the pose down into component parts slowly, pausing at each stage, pointing and tapping the body part I was using or moving for emphasis.

And people did beautifully!

I do believe our body has its own intelligence and for a lot of people our thoughts get in the way of us just doing.

When it comes to backbends I often pause and just get people to watch what I am doing without too much explanation.

This is because I believe your cells 'see' things.  By this I mean that when your body sees another body moving beautifully and freely I believe our bodies just want to find that movement within itself.  If we allow it to move as it feels then we can often surprise ourselves and come into poses effortlessly.  This is something I learned from watching my great teacher, Paddy McGrath.

Having said this, instructions are important and there is a place for them, especially when you are new or if there is some 'inner' work going on (and there always is but often this inner work will come naturally if we let it).

However, I think we sometimes place too much emphasis on them.  We can over-instruct, over-think, over-analyse.

Over-doing anything will block the flow of energy through the body.   The primary purpose of my classes, as I say at the beginning, is to move energy through the body.  Over-stretching, over-tensing, over-breathing, and over-thinking can interrupt this flow.  This is something I learned from another great teacher, Simon Borg Olivier.

Anyway, that said, this week's classes will continue to be in enforced silence, with me miming and clicking my way through.  Use it as an opportunity to explore your own movement, let your cells 'see' and do, worry less about whether you are following every instruction, and just enjoy moving!

Hope to see you in class soon!

Much metta,

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