Deepening the Conversation

Opinions make difficult companions:

Have you ever dined with someone whom the only opinion you seem to share is that you don’t have the same worldviews? What options for discourse do we have when someone is so sure of what they know? There is the age old nod-and-smile, which at least stirs up no arguments, but of course the conversation is as shallow as a tweet. Conversely, we could debate our opinions & embark upon an argument, which will inevitably cease in a stalemate & look as frightening as our current congress. We could have a sense of humor and try to make fun of the other person’s asinine and illegitimate ideas, but all of these options mean that no one is actually learning the art of compromise or how to see the world from a different perspective, which in my opinion is one of the keys to world peace. For the pleasure of expanding our minds, we could practice our meditation skills, truthfully listen to what our companion has to say, and rather than counter-attacking with an opinion we could… ask a question or two. Questions can have a remarkable way of reorganizing how the mind views a topic, and inquiry may even be the key to growing our opponents opinions, which could therefor create a candlelit landscape for a deeper conversation rather than a battlefield for defensive know-it-all pride.

How is the internal dialogue of the nervous system similar to a dinner conversation?

Often, when I look around a yoga classroom I see that students are having one-sided conversations within their bodies. Many students are able to follow a teacher’s sage advice for how to maneuver more deeply and cleanly into a position, but it is another thing to understand how to navigate one’s self into a pose. There is of course a trick, which will help anyone who wants to practice safely on their own as well as all aspiring teachers.

The Trick: Listen to the conversation going on inside the body.

The Nervous System Speaks A Language

If we are holding a pose like Revolved Triangle, Parivritta Trikonasana, notice what part of the body has the most sensation, i.e. the loudest voice? If we were going to give that part of the body a voice, what would it be saying? Perhaps it would translate into something like…  A little less tension please!? Why are you pinching me? Mmmmm, that’s nice!? I don’t feel very grounded.? Am I supposed to be collapsing? or, Whoa, too much… too much!?

Once we are able to covert what our body is saying into words, how can we respond?

Consider some of this simple advice that applies to all yoga postures:

Sthira-Sukham Asanam – Postures should be steady and comfortable; Stability and Good Space are the seat of every posture; Through steadiness we cultivate joy in our Asana. This aphorism comes from the Second Chapter, and the 46th verse of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

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“Enlightenment feels like space in the joints.” A quote by Swami Satchidananda

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Richard Freeman teaches that when a pose is well established it takes on an infinite quality, meaning that there is such a feeling of balance within the pose that it could be held for an indefinite amount of time. (The Mirror of Yoga, pg 177).

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Listen and Respond

Therefor, if we are listening to the sensations in your body, and our hip is explicating to us that it is being pinched, and we know that the goal of all postures is to be stable and create good space, then why not alleviate the pinching? If we know that we are seeking a feeling of space in the joints, and we should feasibly be able to hold this position for an indefinite amount of time… then we better hear the angle of that hip and back off a bit. Once we clear the pinching from the hip, we can pause, observe and notice the next place in our body that is speaking up.

Self Care is Health Care

The little adjustments that we can make in our practice are endlessly helpful if we are willing to pay attention to the conversation going on inside our body & I can imagine no better health care system than this one. When we can learn the language it’s a little like looking in a crystal ball and knowing that we have some control over the future of our health and well being.

Deepen this Conversation

I’d be discouraged for this to be a one sided conversation… we may not be sitting across from one another at the dinner table, but I am interested in your opinions and questions. What are your thoughts on self-practice? Diplomatic discourse? The art of listening to others and to the self?

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About Joyce Englander

I teach weekly yoga classes in New York City, which focus on moving mindfully and gracefully with the breath. I believe that learning yoga is similar to learning a language, and the more you are around it the more fluent you become. This blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts and re-visit lessons from class; to create a bridge for students to translate their classroom experience into real life. I am interested in how practicing yoga can help to improve people's lives and reduce needless suffering.
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