In our Yoga class at Southwestern College, my intention and plan as facilitator is for this class to be inclusive as the Nature of Yoga is meant to be and truly is. Yoga is for all cultures, all body types, all levels of ability and experience, all ages, all genders…all are welcome and everyone can practice Yoga. There is no right or wrong way to have a personal practice unless we’re trying to emulate someone else and if we are doing that we have missed the point. Regarding different levels of ability and experience, this gentle class will be geared toward the discovery of the practitioner’s personal edge. Edge (a term developed by Chris Acosta of St. Petersburg Yoga) is the space where the most benefit and healing occurs with the least amount of risk. Yoga is not a “no pain, no gain” workout and was never meant to be such. Although it is often taught and perceived to be “exercise” in the West and in the U.S. particularly, this is a perversion of the practice. In our class, we will reclaim our Yoga practice by discontinuing any distorting and harmful attitudes or poses. We will learn to respect out limits, meet ourselves we are, and challenge ourselves appropriately. For me, the macroscopic goal for the microscopic personal Yoga practice is to practice nonviolence in thought, word and deed. The more we practice nonviolence toward ourselves, the more we will practice that in other areas of our lives, in all of our relationships, and ideally in all of our interactions with other beings and spaces in the world. This Yoga business is big work!
When developing a Yoga practice, it is imperative that the practitioner develop awareness, sensitivity and hopefully even loving-kindness towards themselves. This heightened awareness is edge and given the many levels of cultural conditioning we absorb; edge is not as easy to achieve as it sounds. Many practitioners find just how desensitized they are and how that manifests on the mat and in their lives. So, edge awareness might mean practicing seated in a chair, seated in meditation, or laying down the entire class. Yoga is not about pushing ourselves beyond out limits, causing injuries, getting an awesome Yoga-booty, looking hot in the latest Yoga fashions, and contorting our bodies like pretzels “better” than the person we’re practicing next too. Yoga is deeply personal, deeply restorative, and each practitioner gets to decide what being restored feels like to them. In this class, practitioners keep their eyes and attention on themselves in order to understand the nuances of how The Mystery of What Is channels and comes to know Itself through them. (conceptual view of C. Sagan, other philosophers, and Yogis)
To me, and in this class, Yoga is about showing up to our practice with integrity, acceptance, and willingness to be curious about and present with whatever is. It’s about Being in the Now which takes so much tenderness and courage. Yoga is our essence. Yoga is a mirror. Taking responsibility for who we are, for what we see, and for transforming what needs to be changed takes bravery and perseverance. Yoga is our connection to the universal river of consciousness, so each time we show up for our practice with conviction, we dedicate ourselves to Self-realizing and Self-actualizing our true and perfect Nature.
Finally, Yoga is our birthright and it is a safe way and space to fully embody our unique and empowered Selves and to transform our own consciousness. Thankfully, this work lies at the heart of SWC’s mission.
In our gentle Yoga and meditation class, we will explore breath, concentrating on, connecting with, and feeling our individual subtle inner energy body with mindful movement and also through stillness. We will explore the concepts of stillness and emptiness. We will also explore and learn to feel the energetic nuances of the collective body as well. We will focus on core strength-building (and not just our sexy abs, but the core of who we are as well as our muscles), cultivating stamina, lengthening the spine, and envisioning all the areas of our magical anatomy as we move through the practice. The reason for this strategy is to express gratitude to all the moving parts, organs, tissues, systems, bones, ligaments, etc, of our blessed body temples. We need to pause in our lives and take time to be appreciative of our body vehicles that carry our spirits through this world one minute, one day at a time. Being human, and being a conscious human more so, is a rare opportunity, a special privilege, and a great responsibility. Our lives can be an offering at all times and we can learn to honor and regard each element of our practice as such. In my humble understanding, this is what Yoga is about.
I hope to see you in class and Namasté.
Laura Murphy wrote this during her first year as a graduate assistant at Southwestern College while pursuing her Master in Art Therapy and Counseling at Southwestern College.