Inner & Outer Strength …
… why I seldom cue headstands in my yoga classes.
I’ve shared before that one of the reasons it took me so long to finally commit to a yoga teacher training, was because I couldn’t do a headstand. I thought that to be a yoga teacher, you had to be able to do all the poses … especially the ‘hard’ ones.
Even when I attended classes, I felt ‘less’ if a headstand was cued and someone else could do it and I couldn’t. I saw yoga as this outward display, long before I discovered the deeper meaning.
I often share in my classes that we practice to be able to sit comfortably with ourselves… and by comfortable, I mean physically and mentally. That’s the ‘purpose’ of the poses: preparation to settle into a state of surrender that transcends the aching body and thinking mind. Where the main movement is the breath and the mind begins to witness itself. Where the silence sings your soul's song. Forgoing the replaying of the past and the role-playing of the future … to find the peace of the present. Without expectation or attachment. That’s my current definition of meditation and what I’m personally practising. But sometimes I need meditative movement to get me there – and for me, this looks like soft, slow yoga and solo forest walks.
I think that most of us are better at navigating our outer vs inner world. In class, I encourage everyone to close their eyes as much as possible to facilitate this inner journey, to get familiar with their inner landscape. To quiet the sights and sounds of the outer word; to dim all the distractions of people and place. To listen to the heartbeat and breath, to fully feel all the sensations in the body: to hear the body cues (not mine), and to surrender to the body's infinite wisdom that defies the 'knowledge' of the mind.
I didn’t know what kind of yoga teacher I would be (I wasn’t even sure I wanted to teach), but as I reflect on my journey so far, my teaching has definitely begun to find its own rhythm. I see my classes as moving meditations – I guide everyone to settle and stay in their inner sanctuary, uniting breath and movement, moment by moment. A seeping stone to sink deeper into savasana at the end. Of course we waver and wobble ... it's a direction not a destination.
I did finally 'conquer' the headstand. But it hasn’t become a regular part of my practice. In fact, I don’t really like it. I prefer my feet on the ground and my gaze up. My personal practice continues to evolve … it’s less power poses and more slow stretches, less outer strength and more inner strength. That’s what I want to cultivate. And as I breathe space into my tight body, I can feel her begin to soften … and to me, that’s a beautiful kind of strength. The ability to release the hardened hold, the clinging control, the static stagnation. In many ways, I find it more challenging: not being able to push through with movement or momentum, relying simply on my breath as the freeing flow. I suffer from fatigue (another blog post for another time), so the soft and subtle serves me best. It expands and energises rather than exhausts me.
I see how things have come full circle for me … we teach what we most need to learn! And so to you dear reader, regardless of where your focus lies or where you find yourself on this journey, I hope that you never feel ‘less’ in any of my classes. That you feel challenged to find your (teaching) edge, whether that’s a headstand or savasana. And that any challenge expands your inner strength. With love, Nina
Photo credit: www.vanessasimpson.co.uk
P.S. On reading this, my ever wise Dad commented that 'less is also more' ... which is also true! As I was writing this post, 'less' took on the negative feeling and meaning of lack, inferior, unworthy. Oh the power of words and how their meaning is so subjective.