“An aspect of yoga that involves bending the body into forms” -Merriam Webster
“To be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed” -Patanjali
There is an old saying, “ fake it till you make it”. I have been thinking a great deal recently about how do we move into being a whole, integrated, authentic expression of who we are, at any moment. Moments change, different circumstances push on that whole, aligned expression, sometimes toppling that expression right over.
I personally am reaching everyday for the courage to again seek my stable equilibrium point. The word courage comes from the Latin root cor, the Latin word for heart. As Brene Brown say in her Ted talk The Power of Vulnerability, “the commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experience..good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ ordinary” courage”.
Let’s revisit this expression “ fake it till you make it”, let’s engage it in a conversation. Just as we can approach a yoga sutra, or a Rumi poem, or a yoga pose and allow each visit to these concepts to expand with examination. We can approach these popular cultural standards, and memes, actually it is vitally important to examine habitual beliefs about our bodies, and about how we believe reality is working.
The first studio that I practiced at had t-shirts that said Poser on the back. I loved the ironic humor. When I was a much younger punk kid, living in a squat in Boston, poser was a derogatory expression. You could put the clothes on, listen to the music, and show up at shows, however you were not getting the soul inside punk. Can we ever tell from the outside what someone else is managing internally, NO! However, faking your commitment to punk was readable by others. I believe that there is something that connects all people. We sense when someone is centered into their core; we notice communication, and actions that telegraph sincerity.
What are we “ faking”? Is it a goal? Places we want to one day occupy? Whether it is an attitude, a physical condition, or even a way of relating to our inner landscape if we rush to mimic what completion looks like, we rob ourselves of the juicy experience of crafting mastery. How do we become good, and then great at something? Let’s be honest, we start by maybe not being so good, being insecure, maybe even outright sucking at it.
In the west we are bombarded by a culture of aggression. It is a logical extension of this “make it happen” culture to approach our life goals with a competitive, aggressive drive. What if we shift the perspective for a moment and revisit Patanjali’s definition of asana, “ to be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed”. To approach life goals with firm, flexible resolution is a healthy expression of will. It sometimes requires slow, focused motion.
I have recently been doing a personal dance with insecurity. Is this because I am more or less insecure than in the past? I don’t think so; I think it is because I have stopped denying the insecurity. I have stuck it into a closet, and aggressively pushed forward in the past, yep, I was a “ fake it till you make it” mantra gal. Now, I have chosen to invite it in to sit in my lap. The insecurity being a bit wild, and unruly at first did not settle down easily. It was like a wild cat left outdoors to fend for itself. Now, it is settling down to purr along, talking with me. It tells me about where it stems from, and opens an intriguing dialogue about unexplored regions of my psyche. As Thomas Moore says in Care of The Soul, “ Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn that idea round and note that it is when we are most human that we have greatest access to soul. And yet modern psychology…is often seen as a way of being saved from the very messes that most deeply mark human life, as human”.
A yoga practice is a great place to fire up your inner sociologist. You can engage in an intelligent conversation with the body, and the psyche. Moving with breath at a pace that encourages strength, while avoiding aggression, allows us to explore the stuck places in the body. During practice we can also slow down the interior dialogue, and become really curious about what we say to ourselves. Then we can take those skills, found during asana practice off the mat. We deepen into our yogic journey of integration. No longer dualistic, good emotions, bad emotions, rather just emotions, our process, our firmly resolute, graceful process.
I do not mean to devalue wholly the power of some posing. Amy Cuddy in her Ted Talk, “The Power of Posing” discusses how the shapes we put our body into do effect how we think about ourselves, as well as, how others think about us. Poses, temporary stances when assumed affect our parasympathetic nervous system. We in fact do feel better about ourselves when we stand with our heart up, shoulders back, firm grounded stance. When we fire up our curiosity about habitual ways of moving and thinking, and practice some posing, we can move towards integration.
Some tools I have been using recently are a firm commitment to stay with the breath during asana practice. When I notice that I have dropped out of an even rhythmic breathing pattern. I also tend to notice that I have started to struggle. I have taken my attention out of the pose, the moment, and onto something else. Reading Fierce Medicine by Ana Forrest has also inspired me, she writes eloquently about staying with the breath. She writes about noticing when we start to introduce struggle or aggression into our asana practice. Two areas of the body we can enter into dialogue with are the core, and the neck. In the Forrest yoga classes I have taken we are invited to an intelligent conversation with these areas of the body. Lucky Om Shala yogis have the opportunity to take Forrest Yoga classes with Janine Melzer. I also have gained a great deal of wisdom from taking Robyn Smith’s Anusara flow class on Monday and Wednesday at 4pm.
Whole hearted integrated movement through fully experiencing, past the posing, into the unrushed becoming requires us not to move from momentum, rather from strength. No matter what style of yoga we choose to practice, bringing our curiosity to examine how we are moving, and what we are thinking while moving will help break habitual patterns. This allows old habits that may no longer serve us to fall away, and space for something new to be created. Sometimes, this requires us to slow down, to practice staying present. In this way the pearls of insight gained in asana practice advance us towards the deeper wisdom in yoga.
“Observance is homeopathic in it’s workings rather than allopathic, in the paradoxical way that it befriends a problem rather than making an enemy of it” – Thomas Moore Care of the Soul
Fire up that curiosity during practice, stay with the breath, my new mantra.
“ if you cannot see God in all, you cannot see god at all” – Yogi Bhijan
Nita Maddux is Iyengar trained, and teaches Hatha Flow on Tuesday and Thursday at 11am.