How showing off (mindfully) can take your practice to the next level.
Yoga is not about performing, or putting on an outward show. Rather, it’s about turning your senses inward, focusing on the movements of your body, and witnessing your transformation from the inside out. However, when demonstration becomes an aspect of your practice, it can help to sharpen your focus and accelerate your path of healing. As with anything, it’s all about intention.
I recently had the privilege of participating in a yoga routine demonstration, choreographed by my teacher Dr. Linda Lack to demonstrate advanced techniques of The Thinking Body-The Feeling Mind. This routine highlighted the beauty of movement that can originate from a safe and healthy shoulder girdle (a problem area for many, me included!). To participate required rehearsal time with an exceptional group of fellow students/teachers, individual sessions with Linda, and dedicated solo-practice time. At the start I felt awkward and totally inadequate next to the other participants (I was the newest member of the group). It brought a couple very important body challenges I’ve been working through in my practice into sharp focus, for example, my inability to authentically straighten my legs. Thanks to my teacher’s keen eye, I was already aware that this was happening. I wasn’t fully accessing the stretch of my hamstrings and had a weird clicking in my left knee. Most of the time in my practice I would remember to work on fully extending my legs, usually by pressing my inner thighs back or up, depending on the posture, but it wasn’t yet completely taking hold in my body.
Being a participant in this routine, however, I suddenly really had to show up, for my teacher, my fellow participants, and of course, for myself. So I started to practice even more authentically, more mindfully, and with more intention, feeling the areas of the routine where my body wasn’t fully engaged. Rather than being drawn out of myself, as showing off with purely egocentric focus can do, I was drawn even more inward, feeling the intricacies of my muscles and accessing stretch and strength with much more dedication and consistency than before. The pressure of knowing I needed to perform was helping me to take my yoga practice to a deeper level, and transformation was taking place at a much more accelerated rate.
Then one fine morning in yoga class, my teacher declared, “Sasha, your legs are straight!” It was a triumphant moment (small victories are everything). She asked me to reflect on what had finally allowed this to take root in my body, which is when I realized it was connected to the routine we had been rehearsing. Of course I then had to ask myself, how does this fit into yoga? I believe by starting from a place of inward focus, we become intimately acquainted with our bodies and how we move, learning what makes us unique and special. Then, by adding a layer of demonstration to our practice, particularly if we are not only responsible for ourselves but also for the rest of a group, we take our learning and focus to the next level, and the results are obvious. Because we already know how to take care of our bodies, moving and breathing safely and efficiently, the whole process becomes transformative and healing. In a sense, it’s a test of the depth of our personal practice and how well we are able to communicate that to the world around us.
I remember an art professor in University once saying, “Making art without sharing it with the world leaves the cycle of creativity incomplete.” Yoga is a beautiful movement art form, and when we get our practice to an advanced level of concentration, care, and intimate knowledge of our capabilities, sharing that with the world spirals the cycle of creativity upward to higher places of physical accomplishment. It’s not about competition; it’s a celebration of movement.
It was magical to work with such beautiful yoginis to demonstrate our routine for the Yoga Therapy Rx students at LMU as part of their shoulder girdle weekend. Thank you for letting us share with you what we do.
CALL TO ACTION! Please share below your stories of performance pressure, and/or sharing your art form with the world. How have those experiences helped you transform?