Many of us, in our yoga practices, as well as in the rest of our lives, are subconsciously taught that we are not good enough, that we have to fix ourselves and that something is wrong with our bodies. Potentially it is exactly this thought form that creates the un-ease or dis-ease in us. Yoga teacher Mollie Morris tells us how to find the body’s natural movement.
When we start to practice yoga, it is because it will make us fitter, stronger, more flexible – all ways of saying ‘better’. And though I do believe that strength, a good range of movement and lightness in the body make life better, I don’t think we have to approach it as being a way to fix something that is wrong with us in the first place. If you are reading this from somewhere you can stand up, please follow all of these instructions working your absolute hardest. If you are sitting just do as many as you can. Try on your best perfectionist, high-achiever, competitive attitude and imagine a whole room full of people who are all stronger than you (and wearing perfectly matching yoga outfits) doing the same thing as you, only maybe better.
Tuck your chin. Lift up your thigh muscles. Tuck your tailbone.
Squeeze your legs together.
Suck your belly in.
Move your shoulders down.
Lift your chest.
Take a breath in and tighten your throat to make a raspy sound and then breathe out slowly.
Check in with how you feel. If you haven’t followed all the instructions, read them again and try to do them all.
I can’t imagine you feel relaxed right now, in any way.
Please shake out your shoulders and let go of that visualisation
Let’s try something different. Imagine that as you sit or stand, you feel exactly like you. If you like it can be the version of you that you like best. Move around a little bit until you find the sitting or standing position that feels the most comfortable, natural and easy for you at this moment.
Now check in with what you feel.
The instructions above are just a sampling of the ones we hear in yoga classes all the time. They all reflect an “alignment based” teaching, teaching that is supposed to make yoga safe. It doesn’t actually work for me like that.
The more I try to impose these corrections on my body, the worse it seems to get. I get injured, I get frustrated. I don’t want to go to my yoga class anymore, or I am tired. And plus I spend the whole time obsessing about my body, which is perhaps completely counter productive.
So I have started to work another way – to try to find the body’s natural movement. We need teachers and healers here, as often we have internalised the correction so deeply that we cannot find what is right anymore. From that natural movement, find the pose. If the pose feels like a strain, back off out of it, shake and release something and then go back in, tuning into the energy in the body, rather than the position.
Effortless effort is the place where the yoga magic happens
You can get it in headstand, when the balance happens easily. You can get it in warrior one, when the energy flows through the body and the chest expands and you get a rush feeling of, “YES! I AM ALIVE”. It can happen in cat and cow when you breathe into and touch the tight places in your spine that have resisted movement and have locked down to protect themselves.
Effortless effort is the middle way
The way between struggling and giving up, where we are active, engaged and present, but not fighting or straining.
Yoga is magic on its own, but it often is a metaphor for life. Today I saw a Facebook post that said “You will never have to force anything that is meant to be.” It is true on the yoga mat, as much as in life. If your body is meant to get into a split, there is a way in with diligence but without struggle. It takes turning up, tuning in, becoming aware of the messages in the body, and loving them first. It involves letting go of what you should do, or what anyone else can do, or even what you did yesterday.
But that magical effortless effort can teach us how to manifest and live our whole lives, with trust, respect and great love for ourselves as we truly are.
Author: Cheryl Slater