28 September, 2012

The doorways and corridors of the mind

Today was Power Vinyasa with Elizabeth Thomas.

I had taken a class with her before, but I couldn't remember it. That surprises me. But looking back, now, I see that it is because I took her class on 3.5 hours of sleep, the night after I had almost lost my passport, and the day before I left for my trip. There was a lot going on right there.

Elizabeth started class by asking us to introduce ourselves, and then say something about what we're looking forward to this upcoming holiday season. It was a nice touch. I want to make a conscious effort to be uber-present during these (and all other) moments, and remember the names, remember the things that were important to people. Today, they floated through my brain and out. I remember ski season, dining with family and friends, the last of the sunny days of Seattle, just trying to make it through, enjoying the holiday with our children. It mostly stuck with me, but the names floated through. I remember Siobhan, Larry... that's about it. One aspect of this "round-robin" is about community and a sense of shared purpose, but I think there's also the element of really drawing us into a grounded presence in this room, on this mat, at this moment. Here. Now.

I have to say that I love Elizabeth Thomas's class. She said that she'd be doing the standard Journey Into Power flow sequence, which she did. But the tiny extras that instructors add can really make all the difference. It's not that they're giving us some big philosophical mantra about what yoga is. In fact, these words they speak are not intended to be anything other than tiny instructions and suggestions to guide us through our practice. But sometimes, they resonate, and who that person is shines through and touches me. Elizabeth said to find someplace where we can let go, while simultaneously finding someplace else that we can intensify. I felt my shoulders drop, my jaw loosen, and at the same time, my quads engaged, and my abs pulled in. It's always there, and if we don't think to do those things, we are missing an opportunity. The teacher's role is really, I think, to help draw us into the present.

I'm never a fan of "knee-to-nose" as I think I have made quite clear in other entries. But something about the emotion and style with which Elizabeth instructs it makes it somehow more tolerable. It's fun, because she draws her words out long, almost like instructing a roomful of kindergartners how to do calisthenics: "Rrrrrrrreach your leg back.... and squeeeeeze your knee in.... and rrrrrrreach it back.... and squeeeeeeze it in...." I don't know why that makes a difference, but it does.

During the final Savasana, she was talking about being present, and not letting our thoughts take over. She said "your mind will present you with doorways and corridors, and perhaps you might choose not to go down them." For some reason, that metaphor really worked for me. I can't really explain how it did. But I could picture the idea of each thought appearing before us, and we can either stroll past, after a casual glance, or perhaps occasionally wander a few steps down, then returning to the present moment. Or, if we allow it, we can stray far down some hallway, so far away that we are not even here at all.


1 comment:

  1. Are you doing the Zen in the City thing at UYS? haha after 108 days that'd be nothing...