Sunday, August 8, 2010

Time to Absorb - "BRFWA"

Every practice has its rhythms, and for me, part of every practice is taking time to allow the body to absorb its experiences, for the mind to discover and recognize itself, and for the breath to carry awareness throughout my being. This is a continuous process, and sometimes I can practice within a rhythm where this is ongoing. Sometimes, though, my attention is drawn to an aspect of the practice, and I need to pause periodically to allow this process to become the foreground, rather than the background.

When I teach, I rely upon my own understandings of this while I watch my students carefully to absorb the layers of their experiences. Some of my students will break ranks with the flow of yoga asana to give themselves this time when they feel they need it, but the vast majority of students will only take time when they are physically overwhelmed. This is not the same thing, and I make every effort to provide a spacing of opportunities for students to integrate and internalize this pattern of allowing their awareness to catch up with them. Just like remaining in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) a few breaths after a flowing series of warrior postures, in order to allow the breath to catch up with the whole body, or practicing pranayama (breathing techniques) to bring awareness deeper into the breath itself, these moments of focusing upon integration can be quite intense and at the same time offer a profound release. For me these moments are often the gems of my yoga practice.

My students guide me with their breath, with their body attitudes, with their facial expressions. I try to give them the time they need to awaken the prana (life force), absorb the sensations and let go of the attachments of meanings and judgments that clutter the surface of their experience. Without these pauses, I believe the body stores stress and confusion along with the movement of the breath and the energy. In some classes I've taken there is no conscious integration until Savasana (corpse pose, relaxation) which is left to the student as an escape hatch from the exertion of the practice. This is not my interpretation of Savasana either. I feel Savasana is truly a practice of release, that death itself will feel familiar in its qualities of transformation when I arrive at that part of the path.

I suppose this explains why I feel consonance with the Kripalu yogic concept known as "BRFWA" signifying breath, relaxation, feeling, watching and awareness. This has really always been deeply embedded in my practice and my teaching practice and I feel honored to offer this experience to others.

Just a note: This weekend I led an intimate yoga retreat, hosting 4 remarkable students in my house in upstate New York, and sharing practice in a small former granary building. I gratefully acknowledge the courage, joy, open hearts, and depth of inquiry these four women brought to every moment of our shared experience. May the sweetness and peace of these moments rise in them whenever their hearts call them to it.

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