So I finally got to the last country of my little yoga tour, Canada…9 months after I left the UK, the last leg of my journey. This country is so beautiful, so vast and I'm so glad I came at a time when there is still so much snow on the ground, to see the country in all its white and peaceful beauty. The nights are so silent, amazingly different from the mountains of Portugal and Bali, the horns of India and the sirens of LA. Yet it is this silence which has enabled me to focus once again on a home, self-practice which no teacher to push me. It's funny, I've practiced in many countries now and I never thought I'd say it but each country has it's own energy which imprints on your practice.
I wanted to come to Canada not just to see my family here but to practice with David Robson of Ashtanga Yoga Toronto. I'd heard lots of good things about David and he seemed nice on his little youtube clip, so I thought I'd look him up! There just happened to be a Toronto Yoga Conference on at the time I got there and David was going to be there, so I booked onto his 'Jumpback/Jumpthough' workshop. And I'm so glad I did…
The most striking thing about David's teaching was his focus on the ashtanga practice as a tool for meditation. It's easy to forget this when focussing so much on the asana side of the practice as I have been, so it was a great reminder and he gave conducive tips on how to keep your focus.
David reminded us that any fidgeting, any extraneous movements or little flourishes in our vinyasas take us away from the meditation of our practice. Ashtanga is a tool that helps us realise any kind of fidgeting. Fidgeting does not belong in the practice!! When you see a thought and do not act on it you come a little closer to attenuating the 'kleshas' or obstacles to yoga and take one step closer to stilling the mind. It's the same in sitting meditation.
Holding the exact conditions of a posture will show you the distractions of the mind. David says it's obviously harder to keep this focus whilst jumping back or through. However, if you see the 'vinyasa' (Jumpback/through) as a tunnel, or as a linear path to the next posture, then this will make it easier to remain focussed. The tunnel acts as 'blinkers' to anything going on outside your mat.
The fidgeting thing is very interesting in itself. I still have this hamstring issue which has been ongoing for a couple of months now…not sure whether it is a tear, blockage or what… Anyway, I'm working around it and whilst doing this with complete awareness a couple of patterns emerged where I could see I was unnecessarily adjusting myself. I noticed that when I stopped adjusting myself in these two postures/transitions, there would be no pain. Keeping samasthiti, whilst going into and out of postures, with no fidgeting seemed to be the key. It made me think that these unnecessary, minor adjustments (one being moving the feet one by one in downward dog…be aware, most of us do this!) were the cause of the pain/injury. How about that?! So I've started doing a little flick of the feet together to get the correct positioning in downward dog, it feels uncomfortable at first, but it's just another groove you have to get out of right? And doing it a few times will create new more comfortable and healthier patterns of movement.
The other tool is the breath. David works on a 4 second inhale and 4 second exhale and had us practice the sun salutations to his drumbeat CD.
Whilst practicing to the drumbeat, you cannot fail to concentrate on the breath, its quality and how the conditions of a posture affect the breath and the mind. I bought the CD and have been practicing along with it and it is so unbelievably effective. It's more effective than a led class, as the drumbeat is hypnotic and sends you into such a trance, mercifully you've completed the series before you know it! Navasana hold no prisoners, neither does Utthita Hasta Padangustasana which made David laugh when he told me about it! Who knew that I have a massive aversion for warrior 1?! I mean, it's an easy posture, no? But spending 8 seconds in it makes me panic, God knows what that's all about….!!
For all intents and purposes, the drumbeat CD shows you the yoga, it shows you where you need to spend more time, it shows you your fears. It's totally worth downloading (see link above). (Oh, and David's talk through voice is rather sexy, to say the least…:)
So, there it is…I have 36 hours before I leave Canada to fly home. The end of this little yoga journey. But I'm sure only the beginning of others.