Doing less to feel more
My approach has evolved over 30 years to reflect modern biomechanics and neuroplasticity principles, so the movements I use are more natural and fluid compared to conventional Asanas (Yoga postures).
Yoga to me is no longer an endeavour, a pursuit where I'm willing my body to achieve a physical shape or indeed a mental state. It's a meditation on the body. It's a way of gradually getting to know my body-mind, deeply and intimately, like I would a much loved friend. Both require the ability to listen, fully and without judgement, and to exercise patience. Patience, in my opinion, is a much neglected aspect in modern Yoga practice, which seems to be reflecting our society's obsession with doing, achieving and getting results quickly. There are no shortcuts in Yoga, as it's only the accumulation of daily, moment to moment attention to everything our body-mind does that creates change. It's the gradual deepening of our awareness that creates change. Forcing the body into performing extreme positions or breathing practices is totally counterproductive if our aim is to free the body and mind. As Krishnamurti famously said: "If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation".
So how do we engage with this mindful form of movement? First of all, we need to do less in order to feel more. Smaller, deeper, slower movements, which will bypass our habitual patterns and restore more natural (and efficient) movement. As our holding patterns are etched in our nervous system, this undoing will also have an effect on our mind. Our parasympathetic (i.e. relaxation) response, rather than fight or flight, will again become our baseline, from which more options are open to us, including creative expression. This process of undoing, a gradual peeling off of layers of conditioning, is rooted in the body's ability to surrender to the ground and to the pull of gravity, and in paying attention to (and gradually freeing) the breath. As we embrace the restfulness that gravity affords us and explore the feelable yet uncharted landscape of our deeper body, we allow its intrinsic intelligence to come forth. We allow our central organ of motion and physical expression, the spine, to take over. The "bodywork" becomes a gateway to our free, unconditioned Self.
Thanks to the gentle, natural and restorative quality of the movements we use, this approach is suitable for all ages and abilities, but I’ve found it to be particularly helpful for mature students or those suffering from chronic pain/illness, fatigue, stress and anxiety. My students often report a newfound sense of freedom and aliveness in their body, a clarity of mind, a peacefulness that allows them to sleep better and establish better eating habits. Their chronic pain (especially back pain) lessens in intensity and/or frequency and sometimes disappears entirely. A shift in their thought patterns can also happen, helping them become more adaptable and resilient individuals. My aim as a teacher is to facilitate each student’s personal journey, so anything I teach is conceived or adapted to suit and benefit the individual. The natural environment for this subtle, student centred approach is a small group or one-to-one setting, which is what my teaching has gradually evolved towards.