“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Plato
I have a confession. I’m a yoga-clock-watcher. Well, maybe not exactly a clock watcher; a time-checker. I try to steal a look at the clock whenever I can: when I come ‘round to have a look as the teacher demonstrates a pose; when I pick up or drop off props; certainly when I go the washroom. I can’t help myself. I am a total beginner. Yoga practice is hard work. I can’t help checking how much class time remains. When is Savasana?
So part of my hesitation in signing-up for a yoga ‘workshop’is: Can I do the time?
My concern about stamina is just one of my beginner concerns. Other concerns are flexibility, balance, and ego. Yes, ego; who wants to be the total beginner in the room?
Despite my clock-watching ways (and lack of confidence and experience) I actually do want to ‘strengthen my practice’ I’d like to develop a home practice. I want to feel like I’m a ‘real’ yogi. I decide to sign-up! Why not?
Each day or session is structured in three parts:
***Inspiration from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – sharing of knowledge
***Asana – physical postures
***Pranayama / Meditation – breath work / relaxation
Here’s what I learned from my first-ever yoga seminar:
Turns out there are 196 yoga sutras. We begin at the beginning.
“Now begins the study [practise] of yoga.”
This first sutra turns out to be my favourite of the sutras we look at each morning. I don’t know which word I like more, now OR begins. I feel energy and action in the word now. And, for me ‘begins’ is somehow reassuring. I’m a beginner – a mature beginner, at that. In fact, I feel that I am late. This first sutra reassures me I’m not late. Now is the time. The timing is fine - just right for me. I also like the word now because there’s nowhere to hide – this is not the past or the present. This is now.
Turns out there are 300 yoga poses. We begin with the first one and work our way through all 300. I’m kidding! We probably do about 90 minutes of poses / asana each day.
As the Disney fairies like to say “Little things make a big difference.” This is definitely true in asana practice. For example, the position of your heels. In Supta Padangusthasan your heels need to be pressed to the wall. In Navasana, they need to be lifted. (This is very different from raising your legs) When I make these little adjustments, I feel the change throughout my entire body. It feels like this attention, this seemingly little physical shift results in the re-alignment / straightening of my entire posture – from heel to head. Transformation happens in baby steps.
Asana is a place for attention, and for daring! Dare. “Trick yourself into doing something you thought you couldn’t.” Krisna Zawaduk. In my case, this is Ardha Chandrasana. What a thrill to dare, and to succeed. Maybe not the success of a perfect pose, but the feeling and the knowing that you’ve just gone further than ever before.
We end each day with quiet, still, focused breath work, culminating with 10 minutes of meditation on our final day. When is Savasana? Savasana is now. And it is longer and deeper than time allows in a typical class. During Savasana and after, I experience a sensation of profound relaxation. And a new sensation. Could this be the ‘space’ that yoga seeks to create? Is this a sensation in the body, or the psyche?
This week during my regular yoga classes, I did not look at the clock once. Yoga for four days, three hours a day, may have cured me of my clock-checking habit. This week on the mat, I was more focused. I was paying attention to all the little things that make up practice. This week, time on the mat flew by. I was thinking what a challenge, what a joy, what a privilege. To be here, to be beginning now.
Colleen Wilson is new to yoga.
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