Urban Yoga Insights: Are we practicing yoga or yoga choreography?


When we want to bring awareness to our yoga practice we may find ourselves in an yoga class heavy with anatomy. When we want to increase our consciousness and bring this to our practice, the experience can be like an exciting conversation between the our limited and unlimited self and one that can change our whole world!

There is huge and wonderful shift in the yoga world towards anatomical precision. After all we re enticed by the idea of physical perfection and now scientific discovery can help us achieve this!
I went to one class with a well established yogi famed for his anatomical understanding and with so much talk about the intricacies I was left frozen to the spot and moved very hap hazardly as my brain was being flooded with info that I had limited ability to correlate physically to. How could I ‘flow?’ in the flow advertised class when my brain could nt even flow with my body? For me this class fed the intellectual aspect of my being and made me want to read a medical book of physiology as soon as class finished but left my flow between asanas virtually stagnant. Personally, anatomy does interest me but only so far as i am able to use it. Its a bit like having every kind of food on your plate- there only a certain amount that is digestible and complimentary, the rest is just a waste or at best a distraction

It’s worth remembering however that yoga is already a science and was so way before our anatomical advances in technology. There was an understanding that all things are connected and also the nature of the connection dictated the outcome of the interaction between any 2 parts.
Ah connection! ‘ Connection’ is the new buzzword in yoga land. However everything is already connected whether through tension, scar tissue or a wonderful efficient practice of repeated interactions. Connection does not mean conscious. We may have an ingrained ‘connection’ with cigarettes and the feeling of relaxation. This may not be a connection we wish to maintain the the rest of our lives however. I ve had some new students tell me they must contract their muscles in a certain way to ‘open’ their bodies because they feel a stretch this way in their muscles. Their understanding of ‘open’ however does not actually ‘open’ them wholistically but merely one aspect at the expense of closing another area. Contracting everything around the specific area they wish to open, for me brings in divide and not the practice of union. I then ask is there a practice that leads us to bringing consciousness to our connections between one leg and other as well as to language and action- mind and body. When we go to our yoga class- is it the yogic principles we re exploring and trying to realise in our own bodies or do we only pay attention to the ‘how’ of making yoga shapes? To be even clearer I am referring to whether we practicing choreography until its flows, as would a ballet dancer in rehearsals pre performance or whether we re practicing going deeper into a wholistic experience. Again connection is not always conscious and even it’s it is and has the intention of touching ones toes as quickly as possible etc, is this bringing us closer to union or closer to a deep hamstring stretch?
I experienced another divide between mind and body when I attended another great yogis famed for his heart ful dharmma. The class spoke of the most beautiful oneness between all things for 2 hours. The dharmma talk had most in tears of joy but, then when it came to vinyasa with him, the yoga was infused with words that encouraged a hardness in the body and practiced isolation via ‘contract this, tighten that…’ I was left dumb founded as to how this way of moving was honouring the dharmma prior. It got me questioning the idea of embodiment- what it really meant to walk the walk and not talk to talk.

My very young idea of embodiment invoked a god like figure- an individual that was as clear as they come, un-swayed by the dualities of the mind, was physically perfect, and in a constant state of joy and love.
Now I was at the place of being quite daunted by the fact that this was not where I was, at least at this point in my life, yet I did not want to be saying one thing in class and doing the complete opposite physically. I wanted coherence between what I was feeling, saying and expressing and this was where the Yogamonks practice got me!
It s a practice designed to not simply bring an awareness to oneself but realise the greater picture- the sum of all parts being greater than the one. In previously practicing tightening and contracting i had been creating even more of a divide in my body and had believed that this forced/ imposed way of connecting things meant i had a well informed yoga practice. i ve realised from my teacher that we don’t do yoga, yoga does us! Its the process of allowing ourselves to feel all aspects of one s being that enables us find the all encompassing force between all things. After practicing yogamonks, the desire to know everything to feel more secure by doing one hundred and one anatomy courses or go become a monk like figure in the Himalayas, fell away. I began to understand the well know zen parable of the enlightened masters walking down the road un noticed and very un obvious in their awakened state. They did not have to convince their student with constant explanations instead their own innate understanding of life and all it’s aspects quietened those around them by not feeding the mind and gently stirred a child like curiousity. Their mastery of yoga, union within and without inspired an ease in being and interest in discovery. Awakening- becoming more consciously aware can be cultivated in the simplest of things in through a willingness to explore and practice without grasping at shapes or the desire to live in a wonderful ‘happy happy’ place for as long as possible.
This yogamonks practice had very quietly got to be ok with where i was. I now had a practice that gave me the space to discover where my mind, heart and body where in relation to each other via an organic way of moving that showed me how to let go in every moment and stay connected to the flow between all things . As time went on, although I was becoming more flexible and strong it was no longer my focus or intention. What I went to class for was the opportunity to realise the context and identify less with the content in such a way that helped me find the connection between all things and to the present moment.

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