What is Missing in Your Yoga Practice?
I have just returned from the 2016 Iyengar Yoga Convention in Boca Raton Florida. About 1,200 yoga practitioners gathered for four days of practice, learning and deepening our yoga practice.
Our teacher was Abhijata Sridar, Mr. Iyengar’s granddaughter. She came to us offering to share what she has learned from Mr. Iyengar. Abhijata was adept and inspiring to all.
The theme of the convention was “periphery to the core, core to the periphery”. The fullest expression of yoga takes us from the most superficial (muscles, skin) to knowing ourselves (i.e. our core), and then back outwards from the soul to the external world. This theme was explored by many – Manouso Manos in the keynote address, Abhijata in her teachings and stories about Mr. Iyengar, and the many wonderful articles in the convention magazine.
While I could also write about the theme, another idea presented at the convention resonated strongly with me. Abhijata spoke of Mr. Iyengar’s practice and how he would look for what was missing in his yoga practice. This idea, for me, was an incredible new way to practice.
When we are practicing the poses, we often go through a check list of actions to get us into the shape of the pose. If we have been practicing for some time then we might have also developed longer timings in the pose, allowing us to stay, observe and simply be. But what happens if we look for what is missing? This opens a whole different line of inquiry and learning.
In my practices since I have returned I have attempted to notice what was missing. The answers that arose were unexpected!
First, I noticed that what was missing most was my attention. My mind still was quite interested in leaping around, thinking about that email that needed to be answered, or plans for later in the day. My mind was less interested in remaining present. I have a long way to go in developing both Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and Dharana (concentration), two of the limbs of Ashtanga (eight-limbed) Yoga.
Secondly, I noticed I was missing quietness and effortless effort, as was reflected in my face and throat. Recently I have been practicing to maintain relaxation and softness in my face and throat in an effort to keep my blood pressure low. I was attempting to practice on a physiological and mental level. Even with my emphasis on this intention of quietness, it was still consistently missing in implementation.
I noticed other missing things on a more physical level – my legs were not straight, spine was not long, etc. But the most profound learning that came from looking for what was missing was on the physiological, mental and intellectual levels. In conclusion, even this small clue from Mr. Iyengar (notice what is missing) took me from a more physical practice (the periphery) towards the core (mental and intellectual). And now I share from my core back to you.