I admit it, the title for this blog post is not my own, it is part of the title of a book I am reading written by one of my first yoga teachers in London, Norman Blair, whose classes I discovered back in the Noughties (the 2000's). The book itself is brilliant and I recommend it to all yogis, however it is the title that strikes a cord and resonates deeply with me these days and aligns with my current interpretation of the yoga practice, after all if we are not foremost concerned with brightening our inner skies then what are we doing?
2006. Then and there was when and where I became hooked on yoga and London being London it was available 24-7 (nearly), at the beginning I was practising three times a week. Norman's class was on a Saturday morning. I was new to yoga but I jumped in fast, ('much too fast' I now hear my older and wiser self muttering), ashtanga was my practice of choice (for those who don't know it is a beautiful and powerful breath led vinyasa practice), the breath, the movement, I felt connected, I felt strong, I felt joyful but my focus at the beginning wasn't really on brightening my inner skies it was on physicality, despite Norman's humurous reminders that long hamstrings did not equal happiness nor did our ability to touch our nose to our shins in certain forward folds, I was intent on getting it there. I was obsessed. I wanted to add in a fourth class a week but was not sure I could afford it. I remember clearly calculating that if I reduced my already strictly bugeted food expenses I would be able to afford that one more class a week. So I did, switched supermarkets, reduced my needs and continued on my quest. Norman is one of the best teachers I have ever had and his soft voice encouraged softening, encouraged letting go of striving, encouraged all the wisdom I needed to hear but there was one unwelcome guest that needed to be taught a thing or two; my ego that kept accompanying me to class. And the ego was dealt with, as in I got injured, deeply injured to my hamstrings and siatic nerve. It was then that I was ready to learn and listen.
Fast forward about 11 years, and how things have changed. A few years ago I sank down into hanumanasana (splits) and around the same time I managed to get my foot behind my head - yes, I know deep enlightenment right? Wrong - quite honestly I was a bit disappointed, it was an anticlimax after all that expectation; being able to do splits hasn't in any way made my life better which takes us back again to Norman's wisdom about long hamstrings. I was explaining to a student last night how I reached that point and thought so what? What is this? I've realised in yoga we kind of go round in circles ut each cycle seems so much more rich than the one before. So here I am now right back at the start again re-exploring all that I by-passed on the way. That is the beauty of yoga, a constant reworking and questioning, discovering and then repeating the same again and again. You have to stay curious and patient on this exploration.
My practice these days is slow, slow enough so I can notice the breath, slow enough so that I can notice the body responding to the breath and more importantly it is about feeling over form; feeling into each moment and movement in the body and listening to it respond. I am less and less interested in the end point. My definition of perfect has changed. I have been deeply drawn to simplicity, gone is the obsession with the fancypants postures (ok, maybe I lie a little, that depends on the day), mindfulness and breath have taken over, my influences are Max Strom's beautiful breath led simple practices, Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Angela Farmers non-linear feminine focus, a wonderful teacher Jude Murray has really taught me about seeking and offering compassion and kindness in the practice, whilst my studies with Diane Long in the intuitive yoga of Vanda Scaravelli have heightened the focus on the inner enviroment, on feeling, dropping the push and pull and truely enjoying what I see and feel.
What do I see? Now when I get on the mat I know that I am looking to see, even if just a little, a brightening in my inner skies, and then a deep intention to carry that with me off the mat. There are clouds, and believe me this Winter has seem a few clouds darkening my inner skies, but with this as the focus there is so much potential. Each breath, each movement is really a way to parting the clouds, to clear the sky and to see ourselves more clearly and then imagine these bright inner skies being radiant so that they can uplift others and then our yoga really becomes alive and real and bright.
Happy Spring all, stay bright inside. Juliette xxx
*The book reference on this post is "Brightening our Inner Skies - Yin and Yoga" by Norman Blair