Wasn’t the rain wonderful? This morning, as I look out at a brilliant blue sky peeking through passing clouds -- and sunlight shimmering on everything -- I am inspired by the cherry plum trees that are allowed to sleep all winter and reawaken so spectacularly in the near spring.
Why can’t we do that? Or can we? Is it possible that some of us have been sleep walking through our yoga practice for so long we are missing out on the chance to come into full bloom?
This week, as we continue to focus on surrender, I invite you to enjoy the challenge and wonder of approaching your yoga practice as a beginner -- or as a beginner again. To explore what each step of a pose feels like before going into the next. What are your hands doing in downward dog? What is your back foot doing in anjaneyasana (low lunge)? I call these "bus stops" and in our classes this week, we'll take time to explore how finding ease in each bus stop before going on to the next prepares us to experience the full expression of any pose.
Just like the cherry plum trees, we'll bud before we blossom.
As a kid's yoga teacher, I think I've learned more from the children then they have learned from me. Especially about Ishvara Pranidhana, the fifth niyama in our yogic guide to health and well-being, and our focus for March.
The sanskrit word Ishvara translates as “higher power” and Pranidhana as “devotion" or "surrender.” Much has been written about Ishvara Pranidhana, with definitions of Ishvara ranging from “God” to “self” to “universe.” It's a tricky topic because “yoga is not meant to be a religion or a dogma.” (BKS Iyengar)
So what then does Surrendering to a Higher Power mean for the yoga practioner? Here's where the kid's enlightened me.
When I first started teaching children, I struggled with getting the kids to pay attention to me and follow the yoga. Then one day, they surprised me. With little prompting, they lined up and walked themselves mindfully to our classroom, took off their shoes and socks, and set up their mats. Then one of the girls said to me, "remember last week when we talked about what we did well the week before? Can we do that again?"
She was asking me to review the class rules again.
It was in that moment that I realized that they were learning despite the chaos. That chaos is the norm for children's yoga. I immediately "loosened my reins" on the class and started improvising. I turned wandering off the mat into a lesson about how we can calm ourselves down by connecting to the earth. I turned "farting poses" into a lesson about how yoga can help us to feel better when we have a tummy ache. Even the wildest of the kids became (almost) totally engaged.
And I learned that this is what Patanjali was talking about with Ishvara Pranidhana. I had surrendered my teaching approach to the true nature of the children. I learned to embrace the chaos and recognize that the yoga learnings -- even for the children -- lie in between the poses. Since then, I have come to interpret "higher power," as "the true nature" of whatever I am working with, and I am learning to embrace that true nature accordingly. In a nutshell, I am learning to "go with the flow."
So this is our focus for March. What "true nature" are you resisting? To what do you need to surrender?
My intent with this blog is to share the learnings and resources that have been the most helpful to me on my journey to my highest self, with the hope that you find them to be helpful, too!