After teaching yoga for more than 25 years, I have shifted my personal practice along with how I teach others. For years it was all about the workout and the physical element of yoga. However, now it holds a deeper meaning and has a more subtle energy to it. I would like to share this with you in hopes that you might experience this "subtle energy shift" for yourself.
I'm leaning toward a more supported practice with props to assist the body allowing for a deeper release. I am not speaking of Restorative Yoga, although it is a wonderful way to practice as well. I am speaking about a gentle yoga practice where you give yourself permission to soften while holding a pose. There is still effort, but there is a letting go within the effort.
Our daily "holding" our body up or "gripping" our muscles constantly can create an imbalance within our system. Instead, I offer the concept of "bringing the earth closer to you." By placing a block under your head during a forward fold or a bolster under your torso for child's pose, you can have a completely different experience; a softer experience. My favorite supported pose is placing a block under my sacrum during Salamba Setu Bandha (supported bridge pose). There is a softer way to practice every single asana (pose), but this isn't often provided for you in a typical yoga class.
There are numerous benefits when you soften your practice: calming the nervous system, balancing the hemispheres of your brain and your hormones, lowering stress levels, improving digestion, relieving insomnia, depression, PMS, to name a few.
My favorite part of this softer approach is the actual sensation of being held in a pose.
At the beginning of most yoga classes, the teacher begins to warm up the class with gentle vinyasa flows or easy poses. He or she might say, "During this class please take child's pose whenever you need to" or "You can lie in Savasana (corpse pose) through the entire class, and you will still be practicing yoga. Listen to your body, and honor its needs."
Have you ever seen anybody do that? Actually listen to that invitation and give him- or herself permission to lie there and do nothing but breathe and relax?
I say give it a try sometime.
Maybe at home and not in your level 2-3 flow on Monday night where you're trying to sweat out some toxins and move your body. Or you might choose to bring a block under your hand during your next Trikonasana (triangle pose) and bring the earth a little closer to you so you can ease into the pose and not struggle so.
We work so hard in life and continue to focus on bettering ourselves in every way possible. We often forget to sometimes simply let go and leave well enough alone. There is a time and place for effort, and there is a wonderful time and place for ease and surrender. After all, there is no such thing as an advanced yogi. We are always beginners, free of ego and free of getting anywhere. We are practicing being where we are; truly and fully present in the moment … this moment right now. And now this moment …